WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrats, who won control of the U.S. Congress, said on Sunday they will push to begin withdrawing American troops from Iraq in the next few months but the White House cautioned against fixing timetables.
“First order of business is to change the direction of Iraq policy,” said Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat expected to be chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee in the new Congress that convenes in January.
The Iraqi government must be told that U.S. presence was “not open-ended and that, as a matter of fact, we need to begin a phased redeployment of forces from Iraq in four to six months,” Levin said on ABC’s “This Week.”
President George W. Bush has insisted that U.S. troops would not leave until Iraqis could take over security for their country, and has repeatedly rejected setting a timetable for withdrawal, saying that would only embolden the insurgents.
The White House, however, said that Bush is open to new ideas and the president will meet on Monday with the bipartisan Iraq Study Group that is expected to recommend alternative policies in its final report.
More than 2,800 American troops have been killed in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and the unpopular war was a key factor in last week’s elections that swept Bush’s Republican Party from power in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Violence showed no signs of letting up. A suicide bomber killed 35 people at a police recruiting center in Baghdad on Sunday in the bloodiest attack in months against recruits. Four British troops were killed in an attack in Basra.
“We need to redeploy,” Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada said on CBS’ “Face The Nation,” adding that the decision should be made by military officers in Iraq.