WASHINGTON — A leading Democrat on Saturday declared last year's troop buildup in Iraq a failure.
Sen. Joe Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the military push didn't succeed because U.S. troops remain committed there in large numbers and political reconciliation has not been achieved.
"The purpose of the surge was to bring violence in Iraq down so that its leaders could come together politically," said Biden, D-Del., in this week's Democratic radio address. "Violence has come down, but the Iraqis have not come together."
He later added, "There is little evidence the Iraqis will settle their differences peacefully any time soon."
Biden offered an early rebuttal to next week's testimony by Gen. David Petraeus, the top military commander in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador there. Petraeus and Crocker are expected to say the recent buildup in troops has succeeded in improving security. But they also likely will say that a period of assessment is needed this summer before officials can decide whether troop withdrawals can continue.
Democrats have called this approach unacceptable and said they would pursue an alternative policy through legislation. They said their focus will be on restoring the strength of the Army and Marines and refocusing the nation's resources on fighting terrorists in Afghanistan.
"I believe the president has no strategy for success in Iraq," Biden said. "His plan is to muddle through, and hand the problem off to his successor."
Republicans say they are satisfied with the recent drop in violence and that more time is needed to improve the situation there.