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US Senators Seek Pentagon Briefings on Redeployments from Iraq

U.S. Senate Democrats have introduced legislation calling on the Pentagon to keep Congress informed on contingency planning for U.S. troop redeployments from Iraq. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.

The chief sponsor of the bill is Senator Hillary Clinton, a New York Democrat who is seeking her party's nomination for president next year. "We must not redeploy out of Iraq with the same combination of arrogance and incompetence which the Bush administration exhibited deploying into Iraq. We did not have a smart plan to go in, but we will do everything in our power to be sure we have a smart plan to get out," she said.

The bill's co-sponsor, Senator John Kerry, a Massachusetts' Democrat who unsuccessfully tried to unseat President Bush in the 2004 presidential election, said the request for classified briefings for members of the Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees is in keeping with Congress' oversight role. "The Pentagon ought to be planning to save lives, not save face. They ought to be planning to do what is responsible, to share with the Congress so we all share in the accountability," he said.

Clinton introduced her legislation in the wake of a dispute with a key Pentagon official.

Earlier this year, Clinton, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, sought answers about how troops and equipment would leave Iraq.

Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman responded in a letter that public discussion of withdrawal reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq.

Clinton called the response outrageous, and said the Pentagon was avoiding a serious issue. She expressed her concern in a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

In his response, the defense secretary acknowledged that contingency planning for a troop redeployment is indeed taking place with his active involvement.

Earlier Thursday, Clinton and other members of the Armed Services Committee had a classified briefing with Undersecretary Edelman on drawdown planning -- a meeting, Clinton told reporters, that was a direct result of her clash with the Pentagon.