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The U.S. House of Representatives voted Thursday for the withdrawal of most American troops from Iraq by April 1, 2008
The U.S. House of Representatives voted Thursday for the withdrawal of most American troops from Iraq by April 1, 2008, hours after President Bush delivered an impassioned televised plea to give his "surge" strategy a chance to work. Despite urging patience and warning of dire consequences in the event of a precipitous pullout, the Democrat-controlled House rejected George W. Bush's admonition against congressional meddling in the running of the war, voting 223 to 201 along strict party lines to require the Pentagon to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq within 120 days of the law's adoption. The Senate, for its part, while not yet able to secure the 60 votes necessary for a withdrawal resolution to pass there, is expected to hold further votes next week, although Bush has pledged to veto any bill sent to him requiring a pullout before a full assessment of his new strategy can be made in September. Defending the "surge," which saw the deployment of an additional 30,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, primarily in and around the capital Baghdad, Bush acknowledged that the situation in the country had not improved as much as he would have liked. But he warned that a withdrawal now would risk "mass killing on a horrific scale," and repeatedly invoked the specter of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia as a compelling reason to give the Iraqi government more time to develop its security apparatus and learn to fend for itself. The report issued Thursday noted that some progress had been achieved. Of 18 benchmarks set by Congress that Iraq was expected to meet to warrant continued U.S. support, the report said that eight had successfully been implemented, including the deployment of three Iraqi brigades in and around Baghdad and the spending of some $7.3 billion of Iraqi money on improving the country's military forces. However, it said the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki had failed to meet a further eight goals, including the adoption of an oil revenue-sharing plan and moving ahead with preparations for local elections in a bid to reconcile the country's sectarian divide. The success a two others could not be judged. The report also criticized the Maliki government for interfering politically in military decisions, and of participating in the repression of Sunnis by creating hit lists targeting its enemies, a situation not noticeably ameliorated by the troop increase. However, Bush has continuously argued that since his new security strategy only went into effect in January, it would require more time to bear fruit. "We need to ensure that when American forces do pull back that terrorists and extremists don't take control," he said. So far, Bush has managed to retain the guarded loyalty of Republicans in Congress. But there is a growing restlessness even within the ranks of the party faithful, and many Republican congressmen have said they are finding it increasingly difficult to explain to constituents why they continue to support the president. In a USA Today/Gallup Poll coincidentally released this week, fully 62% of respondents said the Iraq war was a mistake, half said the current troop surge was not making a difference, while Bush's approval rating dropped to 29%.
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