McCain Calls for More Troops in Iraq
Thursday, December 14, 2006; 5:18 PM
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Sen. John McCain took his controversial proposal for curbing Iraq's sectarian violence to Baghdad on Thursday, calling for an additional 15,000 to 30,000 U.S. troops and joining a congressional delegation in telling Iraq's prime minister he must break his close ties with a radical Shiite cleric.
The lawmakers' trip came as the bloodshed showed no signs of abating. At least 74 more people were killed or found dead, including 65 bullet-riddled bodies bearing signs of torture. And gunmen in military uniforms kidnapped as many as 70 shopkeepers and bystanders from a commercial area in central Baghdad in what was apparently an attack against Sunnis; at least 25 were later released, police said.
McCain's position puts him at odds with American public opinion and with the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, which recommended withdrawing substantial number of U.S. troops over the coming year. The Army in recent days has been looking at how many additional troops could be sent to Iraq if President Bush decides a surge in forces would be helpful.
Army officials say only about 10,000 to 15,000 troops could be sent and an end to the war would have to be in sight because the deployment would drain the pool of available soldiers for combat. Further, many experts warn, there is no guarantee a surge in troops would work to settle the violence.
"We would not surge without a purpose," the Army's top general, Peter J. Schoomaker, told reporters Thursday in Washington. "And that purpose should be measurable."
McCain said he realizes that few Americans favor deploying more U.S. troops to Iraq, and that if such a move proved unsuccessful in the unpopular war it could hurt his presidential ambitions.
But the Arizona Republican said Americans must realize that if U.S. troops leave Iraq in chaos, groups such as al-Qaida "will follow us home and that we will have a large conflict and greater challenges than those that we now face here in Iraq."
"The American people are confused, they're frustrated, they're disappointed by the Iraq war, but they also want us to succeed if there's any way to do that," McCain told reporters in Baghdad.
He said conditions in some areas of Iraq have improved since his last visit in March, but "I believe there is still a compelling reason to have an increase in troops here in Baghdad and in Anbar province in order to bring the sectarian violence under control" and to "allow the political process to proceed."
Two other senators in the delegation, Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said they agreed.
"We need more, not less, U.S. troops here," Lieberman said.
Another senator in the group, moderate Republican Susan Collins of Maine, disagreed.