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Alabama lawmakers encouraged by report

By Ben Evans
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON — Alabama Republicans renewed their call for patience on the Iraq war Monday after Gen. David Petraeus told House lawmakers that there is reason for optimism.

The report also may have bought more time from Democrat Bud Cramer of Huntsville, who voted earlier to end the war by next year but who said he was satisfied with the far more modest troop drawdown that Petraeus outlined to Congress.

"I'm hearing things that reassure me that the administration understands that they don't have an open-ended ticket from the Congress," Cramer said. "I'm trying very hard to have confidence in him, and so far I do."

Petraeus, who testified alongside Ryan Crocker, the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, said he envisions withdrawing by next summer the 30,000 additional troops that Bush sent to Iraq in recent months. That would leave about 130,000 soldiers by mid-2008, roughly the same "pre-surge" number stationed there earlier this year.

He said it was too early to recommend whether withdrawals could continue after that.

Cramer, who opposed the troop increase, said that outline was "fast enough for me if we don't vary an awful lot." He said he would reconsider his vote as Democratic leaders pursue additional legislation to stop the conflict.

Rep. Terry Everett, R-Rehobeth, supported Petraeus' recommendation and said he would call for withdrawal "when our generals tell us it's time to do it."

"We have to defeat terrorism, and it's not going to be an easy job," he said.

Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Mobile, said the troop increase "appears to be working."

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks, said "we will continue to have good days and bad in Iraq, but it seems General Petraeus' strategy is having an effect."

Rep. Artur Davis, D-Birmingham, said the question is not whether the surge is working but "whether there is adequate justification for the 721 American lives lost in combat since the surge started. The next question is whether the Iraqi civil war deserves the loss of another 1000 American soldiers between now and when the President leaves office."

Davis also criticized those arguing that Congress should not second-guess the military; the Constitution gives Congress the responsibility to wage war, he said.

The war update came at a joint hearing of the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees. Everett and Rogers sit on Armed Services.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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