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.
VULNERABLE: Many women do not report sexual harassment by their landlord over fears they could lose the roof over their head, an expert said A growing number of landlords are asking tenants for sex in exchange for housing as COVID-19 lockdowns and job cuts have left many struggling to pay their rent, housing experts said. A survey by the National Fair Housing Alliance of more than 100 fair housing groups combating discrimination across the US found that 13 percent had seen an increase in sexual harassment complaints during the pandemic. “If I did not have sex with him, he was going to put me out,” one woman facing eviction by her property manager told the alliance in an podcast on its Web site. “As a single
‘OBVIOUS DIFFERENCE’: The Wuhan Institute of Virology has been researching bat coronaviruses to trace the SARS pathogen, which is 80 percent similar to SARS-CoV-2 The Chinese virology institute in the city where COVID-19 first emerged has three live strains of bat coronavirus on-site, but none match the new contagion wreaking havoc around the world, its director has said. Scientists think COVID-19 — which first emerged in Wuhan and has killed more than 340,000 people worldwide — originated in bats and could have been transmitted to people via another mammal. However, the director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology told state broadcaster China Global Television Network that claims made by US President Donald Trump and others that the novel coronavirus could have escaped from the facility were
HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES? An institute of the Chinese Ministry of Public Security and a company are to be sanctioned over ‘human rights violations and abuses’ The US Department of Commerce on Friday said that it would sanction a Chinese government institute and eight companies over alleged human rights abuses against Uighurs and other minorities in China’s western Xinjiang region. “These nine parties are complicit in human rights violations and abuses committed in China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, forced labor and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and other members of Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region,” the department said in a statement. The Chinese Ministry of Public Security’s Institute of Forensic Science and Aksu Huafu Textiles Co are to be sanctioned “for
SPACE RACE: The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp mission aims to land a robotic rover and put a probe into orbit around the planet China is targeting a July launch for its ambitious Mars mission, which includes landing a remote-controlled robot on the surface of the Red Planet, the company in charge of the project has said. Beijing has invested billions of dollars in its space program in an effort to catch up with its rival, the US, and affirm its status as a major world power. The Mars mission is among a number of new space projects China is pursuing, including putting Chinese astronauts on the moon and having a space station by 2022. Beijing had been planning the Mars mission for some time this year,