Reid backs temporary rise in troops in Iraq

By Lesley Wroughton
Sunday, December 17, 2006; 3:58 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said on Sunday he would support a short-term increase in U.S. troops in Iraq being weighed by President George W. Bush if it is part of a broader withdrawal plan.

Bush has been talking to experts about a new Iraq strategy and a short-term increase in U.S. troops to help make Baghdad more secure is one idea that has been presented to him.

"If it's for a surge, that is, for two or three months and it's part of a program to get us out of there as indicated by this time next year, then, sure, I'll go along with it," said Reid, who will become the majority leader when Democrats take control of the Senate next month from Bush's Republicans. He spoke on ABC's "This Week" program.

But fellow Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, when told of Reid's comments, disagreed.

"I respect Harry Reid on it, but that's not where I am," he said. "The generals who have testified before the Armed Services Committee think that we would add to being a crutch for the Iraqi civilian government in not making the right judgments and decisions. I think that is a persuasive case and is one that I support," Kennedy told "Fox News Sunday."

Speaking from Iraq where he was meeting Iraqi and U.S. officials, Connecticut Democratic Sen. Christopher Dodd also was cautious. Democrats won control of Congress in November in part because voters did not like the way the war was going.

"I'd be willing to support additional people if needed in order to get the job done, but in the absence of demonstrable evidence of that I will not support a surge of troops here," said Dodd, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in a teleconference with reporters.

A bipartisan panel led by former Secretary of State James Baker, a Republican, and former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton recommended the United States start planning to pull back the troops in Iraq.

But others, including Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, have said more troops are needed at least in the short run to give the political process a chance to work.


Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashimi, a Sunni, said the United States should boost the size of its military presence in Baghdad where the worst violence is occurring.

"Troops are insufficient to handle the security as required in Baghdad, and you could see clearly in fact the increasing influence of the militia in Baghdad which makes things rather very, very difficult to the innocent people. So what I need, yes, definitely, in fact, I need more troops, in fact, to be in Baghdad," he told CNN's "Late Edition."

Asked if that meant more U.S. troops, al-Hashimi added, "U.S. troops, yes, definitely." He said described Iraqi troops as "insufficient, incompetent," and said many are "corrupted."

But Colin Powell, who served as Bush's first Secretary of State, said he was not convinced that adding to the 135,000 troops in Iraq would quell the worsening security in Baghdad, where the military's presence has increased since June to stabilize the situation.

"I am not persuaded that another surge of troops into Baghdad for the purposes of suppressing this communitarian violence, this civil war, will work," Powell told CBS.

He said the U.S. Army was already stretched thin.

"If you surge now, you're going to keep troops who have already been kept there long even longer," he said. "And you're going to be bringing in troops from the United States who are going to be coming anyway but perhaps a little bit later."

(Additional reporting by John Poirier)

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