HELENA (AP) – U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, on his first trip to Iraq, said Thursday that his position on the war has not changed following a tour of military operations in the region.
The Montana Democrat, speaking by telephone with reporters, said the U.S. needs to develop a plan to get out of Iraq, and do it in an orderly fashion. Even though it looks like troops are making progress, a diplomatic solution is needed over a military one, he said.
The senator did not say whether he thought the recent troop surge had helped the situation.
“I think the reason the deaths are down is because the sheiks reached out to us, and we reached out to the sheiks,” he said.
“The military has really done an incredible job here, an amazing job,” Tester added.
Tester has argued the war in Iraq is a waste of billions of dollars a week. He has said the original mission is complete and the nation can no longer spend money refereeing a civil war.
“I haven’t changed my stance on this at all,” Tester said Thursday.
Along with other Senate Democrats, Tester has sought to de-authorize the war and force the president to get approval from Congress to continue the fight.
Tester toured Ramadi, capital of Anbar province, and said he was impressed with the troops and called the tour “an eye-opening experience for me.”
Tester, calling reporters from the U.S. Embassy where he had dinner with Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia, said he thinks the country needs to start pulling troops out.
But the senator also said he could not envision supporting a proposal that would cut off funding for the war.
Tester, in what he said was his first trip across the Atlantic Ocean, said the Iraqi government can’t rely on the “crutch” of U.S. troops.
“I just don’t think we can spend a lifetime here, I think we need to push some folks,” Tester said. “They can do it, but not as long as we are there for a crutch.”
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