From NBC's Ken Strickland
Possible presidential candidate and GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel says a new strategy for Iraq "must include timeframes." And while not blatantly embracing Democrats' oft-used terms of "timetables," he clarifies that "timeframes are forcing mechanisms that prompt action and define consequences."
Hagel, a Nebraskan and Vietnam veteran, plans to deliver these comments in a speech tonight in Washington. In that speech, he'll also repeat his belief that "substantial withdrawal of American forces must begin next year... Time is not on our side." And he'll dismiss assertions that withdrawal of US military forces would guarantee that Iraq will become "a terrorist haven for al Qaeda. I do not believe it is preordained."
Hagel does take issue with some of the ISG recommendations. On the acceleration of training Iraq's military and police forces, he will say, "We cannot make the training of Iraqi troops a prerequisite for our withdrawal from Iraq." He cites more than $12 billion already spent on on training and that "the Administration has continuously provided unrealistic reports of the success we were having training Iraqi forces." He'll also caution against embedding substantially more US soldiers with Iraqi troops, saying it could make them "dangerously exposed and unsupported in combat and caught in the middle of a civil war."
Hagel is expected to decide sometime between now and early 2007 whether he'll seek the presidency (and he's been keeping his decision-making much closer to the vest than many of his Senate colleagues).