THE ISSUE

Establishment of a timetable for a withdrawal from Iraq.

OUR VIEW

Such a move only would embolden the insurgents, endanger our service personnel and destabilize the entire Middle East.



Back in June, Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., made an appearance on ABC’s Sunday news show “This Week.” On it, he called for President Bush to set a deadline for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.

“I voted for the resolution to commit the troops, and I feel that we’ve done about as much as we can do,” Jones said.

He wasn’t the only Republican to make the talk-show rounds over the summer. Several joined Democrats in their criticism that the Bush administration overestimated the ability of Iraqi forces to fight the insurgents and failed to plan for an occupation.

Republican unease with Bush’s handling of the Iraq war continues to grow. Though Senate Republicans turned down a call from Democrats for a timetable for a troop pullout, Tuesday they asked the Bush administration to make a quarterly report of its progress in Iraq.

If anything, the Tuesday vote indicates lawmakers in the GOP are aware the war is becoming more unpopular with Americans, and they’re ready to challenge the White House about it.

Bush’s popularity in public opinion polls has plummeted since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast. And Republican leaders are rightfully concerned about how the party will fair in next year’s elections.

But under no circumstances should they bow to public or Democratic pressure to set a timeline for troop withdraws in Iraq. Such a move only would embolden the insurgents, endanger our service personnel and destabilize the entire Middle East.

During testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would not rule out the possibility that U.S. troops could be in Iraq 10 years from now.

It was a chilling assessment. More than 2,000 service personnel have been killed in Iraq, including men from the Kokomo area. It’s awful to think that more Americans likely will be killed and more families will be heartbroken as Iraq struggles to restore order and build a new nation.

But Iraq and the whole Middle East can’t afford for the United States to just cut and run. Not now.

So, when will U.S. troops begin pulling out of Iraq? When Iraq is much more stable and able to take care of itself – and not before then.

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