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Biden: No Timeline for Iraq Withdrawal

Delaware Sen. Joe Biden (D) today added his voice to the chorus of criticism of the Bush administration's Iraq policy in a speech, though he refused to go as far as some of his Senate and House colleagues in proposing a timetable for withdrawal.

"The hard truth is that our large military presence in Iraq is necessary," said Biden in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. "They are the only guarantor against chaos. Pulling out prematurely or setting a deadline divorced from progress in the areas I've discussed would doom us."

Biden said that he expected that roughly 50,000 U.S. troops would be redeployed by the end of 2006 with "a significant number" of the remaining troops following suit by the end of 2007. He did not  endorse a specific pullout plan, however.

The senator's remarks came on the heels of a speech by Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha (D) last week advocating an immediate redeployment of U.S. forces in Iraq.  Biden mentioned Murtha by name today, noting that while he shared the "frustration" voiced by Murtha and others he was "not there yet."

Several of Biden's colleagues who, like him, are considering a run for the 2008 presidential nomination have proposed specific timelines for a draw down of American troops in Iraq. Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold (D) was the first prominent Democrat to propose a withdrawal plan, followed by Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (D). Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards has said he now believes his vote for the Iraq use-of-force resolution in 2002 was "wrong."

Biden chose to look forward rather than backward in his speech today.  He called on President Bush to "abandon his grandiose goals" and focus instead on "preserving America's fundamental interests in Iraq."

To do so, Biden proposed three specific goals for the next six months: create a "political settlement" with buy-in from the Sunnis, Shi'a and Kurds; bolster the ability of the Iraq government to "deliver basic services"; and speed up the training of Iraqi troops in order to facilitate a handover of military authority to them.

"I believe if the president follows my plan -- levels with the American people, and asks for their support -- we can start climbing out of the hole he has dug with most of our interests intact," Biden said at the speech's conclusion.

Biden's remarks came on the same day that Vice President Dick Cheney made a speech on the Iraq war at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C, in which he blasted the administration's critics.

Editor's Note: See Chris's article from Tuesday's Post on Biden's speech.

By Chris Cillizza  |  November 21, 2005; 4:15 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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