Ex-General: ‘Bring the troops home’

A former top US commander in Iraq has thrown his support behind a war funding bill proposed by Democrats that calls for withdrawing most combat troops by the end of next year.

Retired Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez says in remarks to be aired Saturday in the Democrats’ weekly radio address that Iraqi leaders are not making the tough decisions needed to bring peace to their country.

“The keys to securing the future of Iraq are aggressive regional diplomacy, political reconciliation and economic hope,” Sanchez, who led US forces in Iraq between 2003-2004, says in excerpts of his remarks.

“Yet, as our current commanders in Iraq have recently noted, the improvements in security produced by the courage and blood of our troops have not been matched by a willingness on the part of Iraqi leaders to make the hard choices necessary to bring peace to their country,” he says.

“There is no evidence that the Iraqis will choose to do so in the near future or that we have an ability to force that result.”

Sanchez, who has become a critic of the management of the war by President George W. Bush’s administration, expresses support for a 50-billion-dollar war funding bill that calls for most combat troops to return home by the end of 2008.

The bill, which passed the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives last week, calls for a pullback of most combat troops to start within 30 days, with a goal of completion by December 15, 2008.

But Republicans later blocked the bill in the Senate.

“The funding bill passed by the House of Representatives last week, with a bipartisan vote, makes the proper preparation of our deploying troops a priority and requires the type of shift in their mission that will allow their numbers to be reduced substantially,” Sanchez says.

Democratic leaders vowed to withhold action on war funding until next year after Republicans blocked the bill.

Bush, who threatened to veto the bill, is seeking 196.4 billion dollars with no such strings attached to fund the wars.