Sen. Salazar to make third trip to Iraq | AspenTimes.com

Sen. Salazar to make third trip to Iraq

Jennifer Talhelm
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

WASHINGTON ” Sen. Ken Salazar is going back to Iraq.

The Colorado Democrat, who was elected in 2004, is making his third trip to the country on Thursday, days after President Bush’s general and ambassador in Iraq reported to Congress about the progress there.

Salazar told reporters on Wednesday that he wants to assess the situation for himself by talking to soldiers and Iraqi officials. He said he wants information to decide what to do with a bipartisan bill he introduced that embraced the findings of the Iraq Study Group.

The independent panel urged Bush to hand off the combat mission to the Iraqis and step up diplomatic efforts, paving the way for a 2008 drawdown of U.S. troops.

Salazar’s bill does not set a troop withdrawal date.

Like many Democrats and some Republicans, Salazar said he was dissatisfied with the reports from Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker.

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Petraeus said extra troops added last winter could be pulled out by next summer. A decision about further reductions could be made next March, he said.

Colorado Republican Sen. Wayne Allard has urged Congress to be patient.

Salazar said Bush’s strategy hasn’t been good enough.

“How long are we going to be able to sustain the troop presence?” Salazar said. “And for how long are we going to be able to finance the war in Iraq?”

Salazar said he will be thinking about how to change his bill as he tours Iraq. One possibility: requiring that troops end their combat mission.

While Salazar’s bill has attracted a handful of moderates in both parties, it hasn’t yet caught on with Democratic leaders.

Salazar also hasn’t won a commitment from Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to include the measure as an amendment to defense bills that the Senate will consider soon, though he is hopeful.

“I still think the Iraq Study Group report is the only coherent, bipartisan way forward,” he said.

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