Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) speaks during a Capitol Hill news conference, Nov. 13, 2006.
Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) speaks during a Capitol Hill news conference, Nov. 13, 2006. Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Sen. Carl Levin, who is poised to become the chairman of the Armed Services Committee when Democrats take over Congress in January, is proposing a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq in the next four to six months.
"The only solution to the problems in Iraq is a political solution," says Levin (D-MI), one of the sharpest critics of the Bush administration's Iraq war policy. "And so the leaders of Iraq have got to come together and work out their political differences, or else there's not going to be an end to the insurgency and the violence.
"A number of us in the Congress have been saying for a long time that we have got to press the Iraqi leaders to reach a political settlement since there is no military solution," Levin tells Steve Inskeep. "The only way I know to do that is to let [Iraqi leaders] know that the open-ended commitment of American troops in Iraq is over."
President Bush has called Iraq "the central front for the war on terror." He has rejected a fixed timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, saying the idea would be a sign of "defeat."
Levin says a "limited number" of U.S. troops would remain in Iraq to protect American diplomats, to assist the Iraqis with logistics, and perhaps include "a very small counterterrorist group."
But he says there would be no permanent U.S. bases left in Iraq after the pullout. "I think [leaving bases] would send the wrong message again," Levin says.
Levin says Iraq's security forces are ready to take over if a political solution is achieved.
"According to our own military's statistics, about 80 or 90 percent of the Iraqi forces are trained and equipped," he says. "The problem is that they are too closely — in many cases — linked to the militias, and that is a matter of political leadership making a decision: Do they want a nation or do they want a civil war?"
Levin says he would be opposed to adding more U.S. troops in Iraq, even in the short term.
"Our military leaders... have said repeatedly that there is no military solution here. So it seems to me we have got to begin to act as though we believe that...."