Kerry: Reduce U.S. force in Iraq by 100,000 by end of next year

The United States needs to reduce its forces in Iraq by "at least 100,000" by the end of 2006, sending a message to the Middle East that Americans are not interested in maintaining a permanent military presence in that country, &to=' target=_blank>Sen. John Kerry said Thursday.

In a speech before the Council on Foreign Relations, the former Democratic presidential contender said the goal should be to have a force of 30,000 to 40,000 in Iraq by the end of next year.

"As General (George) Casey told Congress, our large military presence 'feeds the notion of occupation' and 'extends the amount of time that it will take for Iraqi security forces to become self-reliant,"' Kerry said. "That's why we need to focus all of our energies on making 2006 the year in which we turn over that struggle to our partners within Iraq."

Kerry cautioned, however, that troop withdrawal should be linked to a timetable "that is set by a series of benchmarks of accomplishment."

He conceded "you're going to have to see where you are. ... I would not do it on a fixed automatic table. It has to be results-coordinated."

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