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Alexander Wavers On New Bush Iraq Strategy

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) offered his own statement on President Bush's speech on Iraq tonight, and it's pretty interesting.

Alexander, who has pushed repeatedly for legislation implementing the Iraq Study Group recommendations, praised Bush for annoucing the withdrawal by Xmas of 5,700 soldiers and marines, but he says Bush could have withdrawn more troops faster. The ISG called for a full pullout of U.S. forces from Iraq by early next year.

We'll see if additional House and Senate Republicans join Alexander with the same message tomorrow once the White House releases its own report of the progress of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government in meeting 18 political, economic and security benchmarks. While it will be better than GAO's report on the same topic (15 of 18 benchmarks were not met, according to agency), CNN is reporting the White House will say there has not been "satisfactory progress" on nine of the 18 benchmarks, which would offer a serious counterpoint to the president's own speech tonight.

Here is the full Alexander statement:

 “The President described a clearer and more realistic path ahead, with troops coming out instead of going in, but he didn't go as far along that path as our country could and should go and still honorably finish the job in Iraq.

The President’s most important statement was that under the Petraeus plan, in December, we will begin to change our military mission from combat to supporting, equipping and training Iraqi troops and focus the remaining troops on counterterrorism.

This is also the major recommendation of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group. The best way for our country to speak with one voice on Iraq, as the President asked, would be for the President and Congress to support the legislation offered by 76 of us, Democrats and Republicans, to follow the Iraq Study Group recommendations."

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