Senator urges president to bring troops home

By Anne Flaherty The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Warner, a prominent Republican on military affairs, urged President Bush yesterday to start bringing some troops home from Iraq by Christmas.

Such a move would send a powerful warning to the Baghdad government that time is running out, said Warner, R-Va.

Warner said the president next month should announce the withdrawal of a certain number of troops to send a “sharp and clear message throughout the region and the United States” that the commitment in Iraq is not open ended.

“We simply cannot as a nation stand and continue to put our troops at continuous risk of loss of life and limb without beginning to take some decisive action,” he told reporters after a White House meeting with Bush’s top aides.

In the congressional debate, Republicans so far have shown a willingness to back Bush on the politically unpopular war. But they say they want to see progress by September, when the top U.S. commander, Gen. David Petraeus, delivers his assessment of the war.

Warner’s suggestion of initiating troop withdrawals to induce political pressure puts him more in line with Democrats than with Bush, who says conditions on the ground should dictate force levels.

Warner is a former Navy secretary and one-time chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee; he is now the committee’s second-ranking Republican.

A White House spokesman, Gordon Johndroe, declined to say whether Bush might consider Warner’s suggestion.

Asked whether Bush would leave the door open to setting a timetable, Johndroe said: “I don’t think the president feels any differently about setting a specific timetable for withdrawal. I just think it’s important that we wait right now to hear from our commanders on the ground about the way ahead.”

Warner visited Iraq this month with Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the committee chairman. The Virginia Republican said he would not support Democratic legislation championed by Levin that would call for Bush to bring troops home by a certain date.