McCain: Send 20,000 More Troops to Iraq

The Associated Press
Friday, October 27, 2006; 5:10 PM

LANCASTER, N.H. -- Republican Sen. John McCain, a possible 2008 presidential candidate, said Friday the United States should send another 20,000 troops to Iraq.

A member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, McCain said increasing U.S. forces would require expanding the standing Army and Marine Corps _ a step the Bush administration has resisted. He also reiterated his opposition to a hasty U.S. withdrawal.

"If we leave ... the fighting will evolve into chaos there," McCain told reporters after speaking at an event for local Republican candidates.

Reporters asked him to elaborate on his statement last week in Iowa that more combat troops are needed in Iraq to quell a "classic insurgency."

"Another 20,000 troops in Iraq, but that means expanding the Army and the Marine Corps," he said.

"It's not just a set number."

A former Navy pilot who was held prisoner in Vietnam, the Arizona senator argued that he has been saying for three years that more U.S. troops were needed in Iraq.

McCain's itinerary has included Iowa and New Hampshire, two early voting states in the presidential primary process.

McCain's call for more troops in Iraq drew a mixed response from about 70 people _ many veterans _ who gathered at the VFW hall.

"We don't help people, we're getting killed," said World War II veteran Jean Belanger, 85. "If you want to occupy Iraq then go at it _ but if you don't, get out of there."

Rodney Legendre, 59, a Navy veteran, agreed with McCain's stay-the-course message.

"It has to be done," he said. "As much as we hate to put troops in harm's way, we have to do it."

© 2006 The Associated Press