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Early Departure Of US Troops Would Lead To Civil War In Iraq: Khalilzad

US Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad talks during a joint press conference with Turkey's Foreign Affairs minister Abdullah Gul and Iraqi Sunni representative Tariq al Hashimi at the Conrad Hotel in Istanbul, 04 December 2005. US and Iraqi Sunni represantatives hold two-days of talks host by Turkey on the Sunni participation in the 15 December Iraqi elections. AFP photo by Ali Ozluer

Washington (AFP) Dec 11, 2005
A premature pullout of US troops from Iraq would plunge the country into civil war, Washington's ambassador to Iraq said Sunday, in a direct riposte to lawmakers in the US Congress calling for a quick withdrawal of American forces.

Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad directed his comments in a US television interview in particular at Representative John Murtha, the lawmaker most closely identified with the faction of the divided US legislature urging a pullout of US troops.

"There could be a Shia-Sunni civil war that could engulf the entire region," Khalilzad told CNN television, who said nevertheless that a sizeable reduction in US forces was a long-term goal.

"Given the situation that we're in and the circumstances of their arising, recalibration in the size and mission and composition of our force is desirable and will take place beginning next year," he said.

"But there is a better way, one in which there is increased political participation, bringing the Sunnis in, building up Iraqi forces, and incrementally decreasing the size and mission of US forces, adjusting downward," said Khalilzad.

"I think that's a better way than a rapid withdrawal without those other circumstances that I talked about being in place."

For his part, Murtha on Sunday reiterated his call for a troop redeployment within six months, saying it has long been evident that the insurgency in Iraq cannot be quashed by the US military.

"A year ago, I said we can't win this militarily," he told CBS television's "Face the Nation" program.

"So I've finally come to the conclusion that we've become the enemy, and that there's no alternative. Every day we're there, we inadvertently kill people ... That makes enemies," said Murtha, a former US Marine who served in Vietnam before being elected to Congress.

He said that at latest count, some 72 US representatives in the 435 member House have signed on to his rapid pullout bill pending in Congress, including the top Democrat in chamber, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

"Since we've become enemies, since most of the people over there want us to be out of there, I advocate that we withdraw, we redeploy to the surrounding area," Murtha said.

As for resolving the raging power struggle between Shiite, Sunnis and Kurds in Iraq, "they got to settle this themselves," Murtha said.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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