Sen. Chuck Hagel, a senior Republican whose disenchantment with President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq grows daily, is calling for the start of troop withdrawals within six months.

Writes Don Walton of the Lincoln (NE) Journal-Star:

The United States needs to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq within the next six months, Sen. Chuck Hagel said Thursday, rather than ratcheting up its military commitment now.

With Iraq exploding in sectarian violence and “moving closer and closer to a straight-out civil war,” Hagel said, the Bush administration’s decision to transfer nearly 5,000 additional U.S. troops into Baghdad is “only going to make it worse for us.”

In the end, he said, “feed(ing) more American troop fodder into the fight” could result in “even a worse defeat.”

Iraqis are “going to have to step up” and assume responsibility for defense of their country, Hagel told a telephone news conference from Washington.

Hagel said he believes increasing U.S. troop strength in Iraq by extending military tours while cycling in new troops is a mistake.  

“Eventually, we need to start pulling people out of there,” said the Nebraska Republican, who is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

With violence “out of control” and militias in charge, Hagel said, U.S. troops increasingly are “seen as occupiers.”