Appearing on CBS' Face The Nation, the Senate Armed Services Committee member said that while the timetable of a U.S. pullout of troops would depend on conditions on the ground, it would have to be instituted as policy. "And it has to be something that doesn't start and stop, it has to go forward," he said.
Reed said that the Iraqi government has failed in implementing policies that move that country closer to reconciliation, a stated reason for President Bush to have increased the United States' military presence in Iraq in the first place. Not having a timetable for withdrawal, Reed said, means the Iraqis feel "they have as much time as they need because our forces are there."
Reed took a swipe at the presumptive Republican presidential candidate John McCain when he said, "Proponents who say they want to keep [our troops] there for 100 years just reinforce the notion in Baghdad that they don't have to make these tough political decisions.
"This is a situation ultimately that has to be won by the Iraqis - not by the United States, not by our troops, but by political decisions the Iraqi government has to make," Reed said. "The longer they feel we will take the lead, the longer they feel that we are going to be there indefinitely - and when you talk about 100 years, even if it's symbolic - that sends the message, 'You don't have to do anything that's tough, the tough things we'll do.'
"That's the wrong message."
Also on the program, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a fellow member of the Armed Service Committee, said that the troop "surge" has reduced violence in Iraq and therefore a withdrawal as suggested by both Democratic presidential candidates would be "a complete disaster.
"I've been on your show many times talking about the Rumsfeld strategy failing. We've finally got it right," Graham said. "By adding additional combat power, we've given the Iraqis a chance to turn their country around. And the biggest news of all from the surge is that Iraqi Muslims have turned on al Qaeda. The biggest loser of the surge is al Qaeda in Iraq. They've got their brains pounded out."
Also appearing on the program were columnist Ana Marie Cox of Time.com, Doyle McManus, the Washington bureau chief of the Los Angeles Times, and Roger Simon, chief political columnist for Politico.
Read the full "Face the Nation" transcript here.