New York Newsday is reporting an AP piece about John Kerry’s speech today in New York at the Council on Foreign Relations. Here’s a few quips:
The United States needs to reduce its forces in Iraq by “at least 100,000″ by the end of 2006, sending a message to the Middle East that Americans are not interested in maintaining a permanent military presence in that country, Sen. John Kerry said Thursday.
In a speech before the Council on Foreign Relations, the former Democratic presidential contender said the goal should be to have a force of 30,000 to 40,000 in Iraq by the end of next year.
“As General (George) Casey told Congress, our large military presence ‘feeds the notion of occupation’ and ‘extends the amount of time that it will take for Iraqi security forces to become self-reliant,”‘ Kerry said. “That’s why we need to focus all of our energies on making 2006 the year in which we turn over that struggle to our partners within Iraq.”
Kerry cautioned, however, that troop withdrawal should be linked to a timetable “that is set by a series of benchmarks of accomplishment.”
He conceded “you’re going to have to see where you are. … I would not do it on a fixed automatic table. It has to be results coordinated.”
Kerry had previously said 20,000 troops should leave Iraq following next week’s elections, but Thursday’s comments appear to be the first in which he has set a specific target for the end of 2006.
“I believe you could get at least 100,000 out over that period of time,” he said during a question and answer session following his speech.
Kerry said success in Iraq will help “undermine the myth, all too real in many Middle Eastern minds, that the United States seeks to steal Iraq’s oil, insult its religion, and seize its land for military bases.”
Kerry “also took aim at his colleagues in Congress:”
“Never in the 21 years that I have been in the Congress … have we seen as dysfunctional an institution as the Congress is today,” he said. “Almost every great issue facing our nation is not being genuinely discussed.”