Rehberg Says Iraq Troop Levels Could be Reduced

By Beacon Staff

HELENA (AP) – U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg says he thinks the troop levels in Iraq might now be reduced, but does not believe he should second-guess the Bush administration’s decisions about the war.

Rehberg said Congress authorized President Bush to launch the war and it is not up to Congress to now second-guess specific decisions made in carrying out the battle.

“We gave him the authority to do what he is doing,” Rehberg said in an interview Friday with The Associated Press. “I always have to remember my position, I am not in the executive branch.”

Bush and military leaders have the authority to manage the war, while Congress provides oversight and spending authority, Rehberg said.

“I push and prod, I suggest, I make recommendations, I go over and look at it myself — I’ve been over twice and saw progress the second time,” Rehberg said.

Rehberg has said he stands by his vote to authorize force in 2002, and has voted against a Democratic resolution opposing a buildup of troops in Iraq. He says a failed government in Iraq would pose a threat to national security.

But Rehberg said he thinks troop levels can now be reduced, and believes the president is working toward that to the best of his ability. He said progress is apparent.

“I want to bring them home as soon as possible,” Rehberg said.

He suggested that the urge to pull out of Iraq could be wrong, noting the United States maintains a large presence in North Korea more than 50 years after the active conflict there ended. Rehberg also pointed out the United States continues to have bases in Germany decades after World War II.

“Somehow we have created in our mind that this is different and we’ve got to get out, take our presence out,” Rehberg said. “And I think, realistically, nobody believes that is possible.

“There will be an American presence in Iraq and the rest of the places we’re involved in,” Rehberg said.

Rehberg said Democrats keep pushing for timelines and specific measurements on withdrawal points. But Rehberg said he expects Democrats will change their mind on such specific restrictions if they take the White House in 2008 and have to manage the war.

“You will probably hear them back off that if they’re successful because they will realize from a practical standpoint it will be very difficult to pull out without there being a stability issue that will set us back further from creating the kind of international peace that we hope to,” he said.

Democrats who control Congress have yet to provide additional funding for the war, but have indicated they will do so before Congress adjourns for the year.

Rehberg said his goal is to pull troops out as fast as possible.

“I have to leave it to those who are managing the war,” he said. “From the information I have, I think we are having great success in helping them build their infrastructure, we’re having great success in helping them create stability in their government. I think we will start seeing some of our troops come back.”