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Eighth-Grader Challenges Edwards

An eighth-grader pressed Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards on Thursday about why he couldn't guarantee that U.S. troops would be out of Iraq by the end of the next president's first term.

The exchange came at Richmond Middle School hours after the Democratic debate Wednesday night. Edwards and leading rivals Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama conceded that they couldn't ensure that U.S. forces would be out of Iraq by the end of the term in 2013.

"I cannot make that commitment," Edwards said during the debate.

On Thursday, Eighth-grader James Harvard told Edwards that several other Democrats had made that guarantee.

"Last night, I watched the debate and Congressman Kucinich said he would end the war in three months and you said it would take a whole term, and I was wondering why," Harvard said.

Edwards told Harvard that the United States has troops in many parts of the world, and the key issue is combat troops. If elected, "I would have combat troops out of Iraq in about nine months," he said.

During the debate, Edwards said if he were elected and 100,000 U.S. troops remained in Iraq, he would immediately redeploy up to half of them.

"I do not think we should continue combat missions in Iraq," he added.

Edwards got two standing ovations and enthusiastic responses to his answers at the school, the first of five planned events in New Hampshire on Thursday.

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