Sen. Clinton Opposes Troop Buildup In Iraq

U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) speaks during a news conference with other Democratic female senators on Capitol Hill June 21, 2006 in Washington, DC. Getty Images

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a potential presidential candidate, on Wednesday called for capping the number of U.S. troops in Iraq and linking funds for Iraqi security forces to the government's control of the violence-plagued nation.

Back from a weekend trip to Iraq and Afghanistan, the New York senator also called for increasing the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, arguing more troops are necessary as Taliban forces are waiting to attack when weather permits.

"I am opposed to this escalation," Clinton, D-N.Y., told CBS News' The Early Show. However, Clinton added, "I am for putting more troops in Afghanistan." (Watch the video)

Clinton was quick to seize the spotlight the day after Illinois Sen. Barack Obama took a major step toward entering the 2008 race. She made a round of appearances on network television and radio and participated in a Capitol Hill news conference.

Clinton told Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith she wants the United States to impose conditions on funding for Iraq's military and economic reconstruction to force Iraq into achieving certain political goals. She then criticized the failure of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government to quell the brewing civil war among Sunnis, Shiites and al Qaeda insurgents.

"Unless there is a total partnership with the Iraqi government and the Iraqi Army, this can't work," Clinton said. "And I didn't see the signs of that partnership."

Clinton said she would offer legislation that would not cut funding to U.S. troops, as some lawmakers want, but would, after a six-month time period, cut off money for Iraqi troops.

She said cutting off funds for security forces and private security contractors who guard many Iraqi leaders would show the U.S. government is serious about imposing "real world consequences" to failing to reduce the sectarian conflict killing tens of thousands civilians a year.

"I do not support cutting funding for American troops, but I do support cutting funding for Iraqi forces if the Iraqi government does not meet set conditions," Clinton said, appearing at a news conference with the two lawmakers who traveled with her to Iraq and Afghanistan, Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., and Rep. John McHugh, R-N.Y.

Clinton argued the Bush administration has failed to put any real pressure on Iraqi leaders at the same time the president is escalating the U.S. commitment there by sending 21,500 more troops.

"I think we will eventually have to move to tougher requirements on the administration to get their attention," said Clinton, arguing that she wanted "a change of course, not adding more troops pursuing a strategy that under present circumstances, cannot be successful."

There are more than 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

Following Clinton's rejection of the president's plan Wednesday, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., will introduce a bill that would limit the number of troops in Iraq at 130,000 and would require the president to get congressional authorization if he wants to go above that number in the future. The proposal would not affect the funding of the war, reports CBS News' Steve Chaggaris.

Dodd, who announced his candidacy for president last week, said he has no co-sponsors and that he has not shopped this idea around with his fellow Democrats.

White House spokesman Tony Snow denied Clinton's suggestion that the increase to Iraq may mean a loss of troop strength in Afghanistan.

"If you look at some of the critiques, in some cases maybe they don't take into account (what) we actually are doing or what the Iraqis are doing," Snow said.

Clinton's bill would, if Iraqis cannot show progress after six months, require Bush to get congressional authority for any additional troops in Iraq.

Even as she jousts with the White House, Clinton also is feeling heat from Democratic rivals, due largely to her position as the presumptive front-runner in a presidential race she has yet to enter.

On Wednesday, Obama called Iraq troop escalation "a terrible consequence of the decision to give him the broad, open-ended authority to wage this war in 2002," an indirect shot at the voting record of Clinton and other Democrats.

Obama did say he favors a cap of U.S. troop levels in Iraq and the phased redeployment of troops, both of which Clinton supports.

In a statement, Tom Mattzie of the liberal group MoveOn.org said they would like Clinton to "use her powers as a senator to stop the escalation and move toward a redeployment. A key test is how any senator puts words into action. We would welcome her future leadership."

Clinton and Bayh sent a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Wednesday calling for an increase in Afghanistan of two or possibly three infantry battalions, some 2,300 troops.

"Unlike in Iraq," the senators wrote, "we have a government in Afghanistan committed to promoting national interests over sectarian ones, is making tangible progress in governance, sincerely wants more U.S. help, and is fighting the enemy that brought us Sept. 11."

  • Sean Alfano

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