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GOP's Hunter pushes Iraqi forces improvement

The United States should push for available and trained Iraqi security forces to be sent to the front lines of the fight to stabilize the embattled country, a top Republican lawmaker on military matters said Monday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The United States should push for available and trained Iraqi security forces to be sent to the front lines of the fight to stabilize the embattled country, a top Republican lawmaker on military matters said Monday.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter said Monday.

"We need to saddle those up and deploy them to the fight" in dangerous areas, primarily in Baghdad, said Rep. Duncan Hunter, chairman of the Armed Services Committee of the House of Representatives.

Potential GOP contenders disagreement
In an interview, Hunter told The Associated Press that he took a different tack from Sen. John McCain, a front-running 2008 presidential hopeful who has urged that additional U.S. troops be sent there. Hunter has been considering whether to campaign for the Republicans' 2008 nomination.

Monday's statements continued an Iraq war policy debate that has been intensifying before and since this month's congressional elections that saw Democrats retake from the Republicans control of both the House and Senate.

Also on Monday, Rep. Charles Rangel, a Democrat who will head one of the most powerful House committees when the Democrats take over on Jan. 4, pushed again his argument that the military draft should be reinstated.

Rangel, incoming chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, had said Sunday, "There's no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft."

In a speech Monday at Baruch College, he said he wants to hold hearings into current troop levels and future plans for Iraq and other potential conflict regions.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, a civil rights leader and former presidential candidate, endorsed Rangel's position, saying the country currently has "a backdoor draft."

No Democratric draft plans
But House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi, talking to reporters Monday, said restoring the draft will not be on the early legislative priority list for the 110th Congress. Incoming House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer added, "The speaker and I discussed scheduling, and it did not include that."

McCain said more troops should be sent into Iraq, and the soldiers there now are "fighting and dying for a failed policy."

Democratic Sen. Carl Levin, the incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said troop withdrawals must begin within six months or earlier.

Pentagon study
Meantime, a Pentagon review of Iraq has come up with three options _ to inject more troops into Iraq, to shrink the force but stay longer, or to pull out.

The Washington Post quoted senior defense officials as describing the three alternatives as: "Go big, go long and go home."

The secret military study was commissioned by Gen. Peter Pace, who as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the country's top uniformed officer. It comes as political and military leaders struggle with how to conduct a war that is increasingly unpopular, both in the United States and in occupied Iraq.

Hunter said in the AP interview that he wants to "Go Iraqi." He also said the Pentagon has told him that some 114 Iraqi battalions are trained and equipped, and 27 of those units are operating in areas that see fewer than one attack a day.

Iraq study group
A special advisory commission led by Bush family friend and former Secretary of State James Baker and former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton is to issue its report soon. There is strong speculation that its members would propose a way ahead for Iraq while making clear that the U.S. military mission should not last indefinitely.

The commission is expected to release its findings and recommendations next month.

Sen. Joseph Biden, also a Democrat, who will take over the Foreign Relations Committee in January, said he would like to see the commission assert that U.S. troop commitments are not open-ended; propose a clear political road map for Iraq; and recommend engaging Iraq's neighbors in a political and diplomatic solution.

The United States should "begin to let the Iraqi leadership know we're not going to be staying," he said in a television appearance Monday.

McCain said the United States must send an overwhelming number of troops to stabilize Iraq or face more attacks, in the region and possibly in the United States.