U.S. can stabilize Iraq, says general

WASHINGTON – The top U.S. commander in the Middle East warned Congress Wednesday against setting a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, rejecting the arguments of resurgent Democrats who are pressing President Bush to start pulling out.

Gen. John Abizaid instead urged quick action to strengthen Iraq’s government, predicting that the vicious sectarian violence in Baghdad would surge out of control within four to six months unless immediate steps were taken.

“Our troop posture needs to stay where it is,” and the use of military adviser teams embedded with Iraqi army and police forces needs to be expanded, Abizaid told the Senate Armed Services Committee. It was the first hearing on Iraq policy since last week’s elections gave Democrats control of both houses of Congress starting in January.

The voting last week has been widely interpreted as a public repudiation of Bush’s policies on the war, which has left more than 2,850 U.S. troops dead and more than 20,000 others wounded.

Democrats have coalesced around the idea of starting to remove American troops in the next few months, and increasing numbers of Republicans have been openly critical of the war.

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