Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), a Democratic presidential candidate and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is calling for large-scale troop withdrawals of U.S. forces from Iraq, as well as United Nations-brokered conference to decide that country's future that would include Iran and Syria.
But Biden will not support a full cutoff in funding for U.S. troops currently engaged in Iraq, and he declined to offer specifics on a Democratic withdrawal proposal being crafted by Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.). Democratic leaders are planning to unveil that proposal next week.
In a conference call with reporters this morning, Biden says Democrats should push for a major cut in U.S. troop presence in Iraq, far beyond the roughly 130,000 that President Bush called for in a nationally televised speech on Thursday night. Biden suggested the level should be 'one-third" of what the president has called for. This should be coupled with a "change of mission" in the role of U.S. forces, from directly engaging in combat to supporting Iraqi security forces, Biden said.
Biden also said that Democrats should mount a legislative push to make sure U.S. forces have all the equipment they need to conduct combat operations in Iraq.
And finally, Biden said there should be a major U.N.-sponsored conference on Iraq's future that would include Iran, Syria, Turkey and other regional neighbors. Biden said he has already held some discussions with ambassadors from the permanent members of the Security Council on this idea.