Senate Democrats are confident they can pass legislation to give troops more rest between Iraq deployments, a measure aimed at pressing the US President George W. Bush administration to change its war policy.
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates called the proposal by Democratic Senator Jim Webb a dangerous "backdoor way" to draw down additional forces. Gates said he would recommend a veto.
"If we get this next phase wrong -- no matter how you feel about how we got to where we are, the consequences of getting this wrong for Iraq, for the region, for us are enormous," he said on Sunday.
Senator Jack Reed responded that shorter breaks were creating an undue strain on US troops and their families.
"They deserve the same amount of time back home as they stay in the field," Reed said.
The comments represented the latest political clash over war. Bush last week announced plans for a limited drawdown but indicated combat forces would stay in Iraq well past next year.
The Senate was scheduled to resume debate this week on anti-war legislation, including Webb's proposal to require that troops have as much time at their home station as they do deployed to Iraq.
Gates was asked in broadcast interviews about recommending a Bush veto should the proposal pass.
"Yes I would," the Pentagon chief said.
"If it were enacted, we would have force management problems that would be extremely difficult and, in fact, affect combat effectiveness and perhaps pose greater risk to our troops," he said.
Supporters of Webb's measure say it has at least 57 of the 60 votes needed. It would need 67 votes to override a veto.
A separate proposal by Senator Carl Levin seeks to restrict troops' mission to fighting terrorists and training the Iraqi security force.
"The president has dangled a carrot in front of the American people talking about troop reductions," Levin said. "But, again, it is an illusion of a change of course and the American people are not buying it. My colleagues are not buying it."
"I think we have a good chance of getting to the 60 votes to call for a change in policy. I hope we get there in the next couple of weeks," he said.
If Webb's amendment were enacted, Gates said it would force him to consider again extending tours in Iraq. Military commanders would be constrained in the use of available forces, creating gaps and forcing greater use of the National Guard and Reserve, he said.
"It would be extremely difficult for us to manage that. It really is a backdoor way to try and force the president to accelerate the drawdown," Gates said. "Again, the drawdowns have to be based on the conditions on the ground."
"A unit pulling out would not be immediately replaced by another," he added. "So you'd have an area of combat operations where no US forces would be present for a period, and the troops coming in would then face a much more difficult situation."
Active-duty Army units currently are on 15-month deployments with a promise of no more than 12 months rest. Marines who spend seven or more months at war sometimes get six months or less at home.
Bush said last week that he approved a plan by General David Petraeus, the top US commander in Iraq, to withdraw 5,700 troops from Iraq by the holidays and reduce the force from 20 combat brigades to 15 brigades by next July.
The president has ordered Petraeus to make a further assessment and recommendations in March.
There are about 169,000 US troops in Iraq.
FOX HUNT: To suppress dissent, Chinese living abroad that Xi Jinping sees as threats are told to either return to China or commit suicide, Christopher Wray said Chinese agents have been pursuing hundreds of Chinese nationals living in the US in an effort to force their return, as part of a global campaign against the country’s diaspora, known as Operation Fox Hunt, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday. In a speech about the security threat posed by China, during which he said Beijing’s counterintelligence work was the “greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality,” Wray gave the example of one Fox Hunt target who was given a choice of going back to China or killing themselves. Fox Hunt was launched
INTERNET CURBS: People are rushing to erase their digital footprints after police given powers over online activity, although it might take years for the full effect to be felt At midnight on Tuesday, the Great Firewall of China, the vast apparatus that limits the country’s Internet, appeared to descend on Hong Kong. Unveiling expanded police powers as part of contentious new national security legislation, the Hong Kong government enabled police to censor online speech, and force Internet service providers to hand over user information and shut down platforms. Many residents, already anxious since the legislation took effect last week, rushed to erase their digital footprint of any signs of dissent or support for the past year of protests. Hong Kong Legislator Charles Mok (莫乃光), a pro-democracy member of the Legislative
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting
‘SUICIDE’: Media reports said Park Won-soon went missing on Thursday after a staff member filed a sexual harassment claim against him this week Seoul mayor Park Won-soon, viewed as a potential candidate for the 2022 presidential election, was found dead of an apparent suicide hours after he was reported missing, police said, adding that he was the subject of an undisclosed investigation. In a note he is thought to have left behind on his desk, Park offered his apologies. “I thank everyone who was with me in my life. I apologize to my family for only making them suffer from pain,” according to the note that was released by his office yesterday. Park, in his letter, asked to be cremated and have his remains spread