Because of the courage of our service men and women and the determination of the Iraqi people, Iraq's election on Sunday was a significant step toward Iraqis taking their future into their own hands. Now we must consider our future in Iraq.
We all know that the United States cannot stay in Iraq indefinitely and continue to be viewed as an occupying force, neither should we slip out the back door, falsely declaring victory but leaving chaos.
Despite the best efforts of our troops and their Iraqi counterparts, Iraq still faces a violent and persistent insurgency.
And the chairman of the National Intelligence Council said in January that Iraq has become a magnet for international terrorists.
We have never heard a clear plan from this administration for ending our presence in Iraq. And we did not hear one tonight.
Democrats believe a credible plan to bring our troops home and stabilizing Iraq must include three key elements:
First, responsibility for Iraqi security must be transferred to the Iraqis as soon as possible. This action is long overdue.
The top priority for the U.S. military should have been for a long time now training the Iraqi army.
We must not be lulled into a false sense of confidence by the administration's claim that a large number of security personnel have been trained. It simply hasn't happened. But it must.
Second, Iraq's economic development must be accelerated. Congress has provided billions of dollars for reconstruction, but little of that money has been spent effectively to put Iraqis to work rebuilding their country.
Infrastructure improvements in Iraq are more than just projects; they give Iraqis hope for a better future and a stake in achieving it, and they contribute to Iraqi stability.
Third, regional diplomacy must be intensified. Diplomacy can lessen the political problems in Iraq, take pressure off of our troops and deprive the insurgency of the fuel of anti-Americanism on which it thrives.
If these three steps are taken, the next elections in Iraq, scheduled for December, can be held in a more secure atmosphere, with broader participation and a much smaller American presence.
Just as we must transfer greater responsibility to the Iraqi people for their own security, we must embrace a renewed commitment to our security here at home.
It's been over three years since the attacks of September 11th. Our hopes and prayers will always be with the 9/11 families, who strengthen our resolve to win the war on terror. The pain and horror of that day will never be forgotten by any of us, yet the gaps in our security exposed by those attacks remain.