Congressional delegation's reaction to Iraq plan mixed

Posted: Friday, January 12, 2007

FAIRBANKS - Alaska's all-Republican congressional delegation gave a mixed reaction to President Bush's proposal to boost U.S. troops in Iraq by 21,500.

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U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens and U.S. Rep. Don Young said the proposal should help secure the country and stabilize the government, while U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski said it should be "carefully examined."

The three issued separate statements after Bush's speech Tuesday night.

Stevens praised Bush's overall approach rather than directly addressing the boost in troop numbers.

"The president's new plan should help restore security and the safety of our troops," Stevens said. "There are no easy solutions in Iraq, but the president made it clear that we must make fundamental shifts in our strategy."

Young complimented the president for acknowledging the need for a new strategy.

"For the president to recognize the shortcomings we have endured thus far, and work to change them, allows me to support him in this endeavor," he said.

Murkowski praised unspecified "important changes" in U.S. objectives, but urged caution.

"The president's proposal to increase the number of troops in Iraq is one that should be carefully examined," she said.

Most of the additional troops would go to Baghdad, Bush said in his speech.

Violence between religious sects rose sharply there last year and the military moved Fort Wainwright's Stryker brigade into Baghdad instead of sending it home on schedule. The brigade stayed on several extra months and returned to Fort Wainwright, just east of Fairbanks, in early December.

Stevens said Bush will "hold the Iraqi government accountable for the benchmarks it set for itself."

"The president has put them on notice that we expect them to deliver on those promises," he said. "This new strategy should help keep our troops safe until the transition is complete."

Young said Iraqis must take the lead in the end even with more U.S. troops.

"By allowing the Iraqi troops to take the forefront, and sending more of our troops over to serve as support, we will allow for 24-hour surveillance in the area around Baghdad and fight towards an Iraq that can be run by and secured by the Iraqi people," Young said.

Any troop increase should be aimed at making Iraq's government responsible for security, Murkowski said.

"Any increase to our troop levels must contain a clearly defined mission in the theater to create a stable environment where Iraqis can govern and defend themselves, an environment in which we can safely bring home our men and women honorably serving there," she said.

"Congress must also make certain that all of our military personnel have the resources and equipment necessary to fully support the mission in front of them," she said.

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