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Warner-Nelson Proposal Gives ‘Surge’ a Chance

Under a draft Iraq resolution by Sens. John Warner (R-Va.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), the Senate would ask President Bush to revise his plans for the war and consider a phased redeployment of U.S. troops — but only after giving the White House until at least September to prove the current “surge” strategy has worked, according to a draft obtained by Roll Call.

Although most Democrats likely would oppose the plan, it could provide nervous Republicans with an effective option in the debate to avoid voting against Bush while not appearing to actually support his handling of the war.

Warner presented the resolution to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) late Wednesday afternoon following an announcement by Reid that he was canceling his planned trip to Mexico on Friday to leave open the possibility of voting on his own Iraq resolution either Friday or Saturday.

Aides to Warner and Reid declined to discuss the draft resolution.

According to the draft, if adopted the nonbinding resolution would set a series of benchmarks that the Iraqi government would be asked to make substantial progress toward meeting. Under the proposal, the Pentagon would be asked to provide Congress with a status report on Iraq’s progress by July 7, and “if significant progress on these specific benchmarks … is reported to the Congress, an additional report would be submitted to Congress on Sept. 4, 2007.”

The resolution goes on to say that if significant progress cannot be reported, Bush would be asked within 60 days to report to Congress “on revisions to the [surge] strategy, that provided a detailed explanation of how such revised strategy will achieve the basic goal of maintaining conditions to enable the people of Iraq to have a sovereign nation and a detailed explanation of how a phased redeployment of U.S. forces would affect the Iraqis’ exercise of sovereignty and U.S. strategic and diplomatic interests in the region.”

However, the draft’s wording leaves it unclear whether Bush’s revisions to his strategy would be required within 60 days of the July report or the September report.

Additionally, the resolution also would create a new nonprofit organization funded by the Defense Department to monitor progress in Iraq. According to the draft, Congress would provide $750,000 for the creation of a “private sector entity, that operates as a 501c(3) with recognized credentials and expertise in military affairs” to prepare a review of the readiness of Iraqi Security Forces. The organization would be required to file its report within 120 days.

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