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Presidential Candidates Question US Military Commander About Iraq

By Deborah Tate
Capitol Hill
08 April 2008

The major U.S. presidential candidates are in Washington for key Senate hearings on Iraq. Republican Senator John McCain and Democratic Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama returned to Capitol Hill to question the top U.S. military commander in Iraq and highlight their own proposals for handling the war if elected commander-in-chief. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.

Senator McCain, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and his party's presumed nominee for president, used the occasion of General David Petraeus' appearance before the panel to highlight his opposition to withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq before adequate security is established.

"The promise of withdrawal of our forces regardless of the consequences will constitute a failure of political and moral leadership," he said.

McCain warned that a precipitous withdrawal could unleash sectarian tensions - leading to a full scale civil war that could destabilize the Middle East.

In his questioning of General Petraeus, McCain cited recent Iraqi operations against Shiite militias in Basra in an effort to show that the Iraqi government and Iraqi troops are not yet ready to stand alone.

"Suffice it to say it to say it was a disappointment," McCain asked.

"It was, although it is not over yet, senator," Petraeus replied.

Without mentioning Senator McCain by name, Senator Clinton responded that supporters of the Bush administration's policy often talk about the cost of leaving Iraq, yet ignore the greater cost of continuing the same failed policy.

Senator Clinton renewed her call for a gradual pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq.

"I think it is time to begin an orderly process of withdrawing our troops, start rebuilding our military and focusing on the challenges posed by Afghanistan, global terrorist groups and other problems that confront America," she said.

Senator Obama, who - like Senator Clinton - has pledged to immediately begin a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq if elected president - will have the chance to question General Petraeus later Tuesday during his appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.



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