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Vt. state senator calls for troop withdrawal

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration should begin withdrawing troops from Iraq and put Iraqis in control of their own country, state Senator Peter Welch, a Vermont Democrat, said yesterday in his party's weekly radio address.

Welch, 59, a candidate for Congress, said 2006 should be ``a year of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty." The United States could then focus more on fighting terrorism, including securing its own ports and borders, he said. ``We must establish clear benchmarks for the Iraqis to take care of their own country and defend themselves, so that we can transition our troops out and move to fight a smarter war on terrorism," Welch said.

The US Defense Department issued a report last week stating that both Sunni and Shi'ite Muslim insurgents in Iraq will remain strong and capable of attacking US and Iraqi forces through at least 2007, and that some insurgents have joined forces with the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

``The Sunni Arab insurgents have effective and collaborative leadership, resiliency, and links with the Sunni Arab political leadership," the report states. Al Qaeda ``remains intent on instigating civil war."

The report was issued in response to lawmakers' demand, incorporated in this year's defense spending legislation, that the Pentagon tell Congress each quarter about progress in Iraq.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll showed that 62 percent of the public said that, considering the costs versus the benefits to the United States, the war in Iraq is not worth fighting, and 59 percent said going to war was a mistake.

The poll, conducted May 11-15, also found that 56 percent of Americans would like to see Democrats win control of Congress in the November elections.

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