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Sen. Clinton: Iraq strategy flawed

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, just returned from Iraq, said President Bush’s surprise Thanksgiving Day visit to Baghdad doesn’t make up for the flaws in his strategy for dealing with the U.S. occupation and returning the government to the Iraqi people.

THE NEW YORK Democrat said she applauds Bush for visiting the troops and sending the message “that these young men and women are doing a job that is important to our country.”

“On the other hand, it is not a substitute for a plan about how we’re going to ... enhance security — which was the number one concern that everybody talked to me about, especially the Iraqis that I met with,” she said Monday on NBC’s “The Today Show.”

Bush has also failed, she said, to say how the United States is “going to create more legitimacy to move toward self-governance for the Iraqis.”

Clinton and Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., were back in Washington after a Thanksgiving weekend tour of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Reed said morale among the U.S. troops they visited in Iraq was high, especially now that they have a better idea of when their tours of combat duty would end.

Reed said, however, he’s concerned that when “specialty troops” currently deployed are withdrawn they will not be adequately replaced.

Clinton said the Bush administration needs to internationalize its efforts in Iraq with a U.N. mandate. “We need the legitimacy of the United Nations in order to move forward,” she said.

She also said she feared the administration’s exit strategy “is being driven by our political calendar, not necessarily what’s in the best interest of a long-term stable Iraq.”

In Afghanistan, Clinton said, the political situation is much more stable than in Iraq, but security issues regarding terrorists, especially along the border with Pakistan, remain a major concern.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.