Troop Surge Is 'Absolutely Wrong Strategy,' Biden Says

By Monisha Bansal | July 7, 2008 | 8:32 PM EDT

( - In an effort to sway President Bush's soon-to-be-announced policy decisions on Iraq, Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) said Tuesday he hoped the president would listen to "informed opinion" and plan a withdrawal of U.S. forces.

Bush had been expected to give a speech this week outlining the course for future operations in Iraq, but the event has been postponed until January.

"I am hopeful there is still some opportunity to influence President Bush's decision that he is about to announce in early January regarding the next move in Iraq," Biden said during a conference call briefing.

Biden is incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a likely 2008 Democratic presidential candidate.

"I want to make it clear that I totally oppose the surging of additional American troops into Baghdad," he said. "I think it is contrary to the overwhelming body of informed opinion."

"A surge of up to 30,000 American troops cannot have any positive effect except for only temporary," Biden said.

He said the U.S. should proceed along the lines of what had been proposed by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, by himself, by Sen.Carl Levin, incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, and by "Republican colleagues."

"We have to make it clear to the Iraqis that in this quarter, we're going to begin to draw down American troops," he noted.

"The overwhelming reason for that is we must force a political settlement," Biden continued. "They must understand that there is no prospect for us to be able to bring peace to Iraq if the Iraqis don't want peace as much as we do."

The first steps to accomplishing a political settlement would be to follow the Iraqi constitution and set up a federal system of government and to "equitably distribute the oil revenue."

Biden said he would hold hearings beginning January 9 in hopes of building a bipartisan congressional consensus and so influencing White House policy.

Frederick Kagan, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), is among those experts who are pushing for an increase in the number of ground forces in Iraq.

In an article published on the AEI website Tuesday, Kagan said securing the capital was crucial.

"Troops must move through Baghdad's neighbourhoods, examining every house and building, finding weapons caches and capturing insurgents and armed militias."

Clearing and then holding the city's Sunni and mixed neighborhoods would need about four more brigades -- 20,000 more troops -- than the five currently deployed there, he argued.

In the other crucial area, the insurgency hotbed of Anbar, an additional two brigades -- or about 10,000 troops -- would be needed alongside the three already there, he said. This would enable the U.S. to "prevent insurgents fleeing the fight in Baghdad from destabilising Anbar further."

Kagan said the U.S. and its allies faced "a decisive moment in world history."

Failure in Iraq would almost certainly result in "a regional maelstrom," whereas with success, "the West will regain the initiative against radical Islam in Iran and throughout the Muslim world," he wrote.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said during the last daily press briefing before the Christmas break that the president was "asking people to explore ... ways to victory in Iraq."

This "would mean an Iraq that can sustain, govern and defend itself, where the Iraqis themselves eventually assume full control for the responsibilities of government: security, political, economic, diplomatic and so on," Snow said.

"Anything that fits into that description, the president will consider. And therefore, there are a number of ideas that are being discussed, and the president is leaving all options open."

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