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U.S. Troops In Iraq: How Many Troops Are Necessary to Fight the Iraq War?

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U.S. Troops In Iraq: How Many Troops Are Necessary to Fight the Iraq War?

Iraq War troops--Staying or Going?

Courtesy of U.S. Defense Department
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What Democrats Say

Strategic redeployment is safer and strategic
When either party discusses troop withdrawal from Iraq, they don't necessarily mean that everyone stationed in Iraq drops their gun and comes home. Rather, there are various proposed plans and timetables afoot that Democrats say will make troops safer and still achieve strategic aims.

One idea is called Strategic Redeployment: repositioning troops in surrounding countries. Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean endorsed the concept in early 2006:
We're not going to cut and run … But we are going to redeploy our troops so they don't have targets on their backs, and they're not … putting themselves in the line of fire all the time. . . . It's a sensible plan.

The war is illegitimate, so maintaining troops in Iraq is unjustifiable
Many Democrats have recanted former support for the war. And if the war isn't legitimate, then neither is sending Americans to fight it. Former Senator John Edwards (D-NC) took this position in 2005: "It was a mistake to vote for this war in 2002. I take responsibility … It has been hard to say these words because those who didn't make a mistake -- the men and women of our armed forces and their families -- have performed heroically and paid a dear price."

The U.S. presence fuels terrorism
Democrats argue that the war in Iraq is fueling terrorism, and therefore should be brought to an end. A number have pointed to portions of a September 2006 National Intelligence Estimate that called Iraq a "cause celebre" for jihadists as evidence:

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said the report "provides jarring confirmation that the disastrous policy 8in Iraq is a giant recruiting poster for terrorists."

What Republicans Say

Troop withdrawal is what Al Qaeda wants
There are several ways in which Republican positions characterize Democrats as 'soft' on terrorism. One is by charging that troop withdrawal would be playing into the hands of terrorists. In September, Vice President Cheney criticized one plan for a phased withdrawal with the comment that it would "validate the Al Qaeda strategy and invite more attacks in the future."

A Timeline is a bad idea
The general resistance to a timeline for withdrawal comes from the White House position that the United States' commitment is to winning, and that troops will stay until that win has been achieved. As the president put it succinctly, when he spoke at an event supporting Virginia Republican Senator George Allen, "We will fight, we will stay, and we will win in Iraq."

Republicans also propose that an announced withdrawal would provide terrorists with dangerous information. U.S. Senate hopeful Sen. Thomas H. Kean, Jr., (R-NJ) was dismissive of the idea in a pre-election debate: saying that a withdrawal plan "tells those who would do us harm when exactly we're leaving."

Troop withdrawal should not be based on domestic politics
Spring 2006 proposals to reduce troop numbers in Iraq provoked Senator John McCain (R-Ariz) to say then that, "I'm nervous about that because I want to make sure the situation on the ground warrants it … I just hope we don't pull those troops ot too fast for political reasons. I hope the reasons are valid if we do." In other words, within the general framework of Republican logic, it would be a flimsy political move to withdraw troops only to appease American voters. Or, being unpopular might be okay.

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