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Inslee calls for new exit strategy

Bainbridge Congressman Jay Inslee hopes better-trained and equipped Iraqi and Afghan forces will speed the return of American troops from foreign war zones.

That’s the thinking behind a measure he initiated and led to passage in the House Monday. His amendment to the U.S. Department of Defense Appropriations Act would remove the $500 million spending cap on assisting Iraq and Afghanistan’s security forces. Inslee’s amendment passed without objection from any member of the House.

“The way to provide an exit strategy for our troops and bring them home as soon as possible is to accelerate the training and support for Iraqi security forces,” Inslee said. “A number of us in Congress have been dissatisfied with the pace of training and equipping, but we know that ultimately the fate of Iraq will be decided by Iraqis.”

The amendment’s passage came on the same day of seven separate attacks on Iraqi security forces. While most attacks targeted police stations and checkpoints, one attack killed 13 and wounded 107 at a courtyard used to train new police recruits.

“The (Bush) administration has, unfortunately, dropped the ball on this,” Inslee said. “The administration has created papier mache forces that are not ready for the job.”

Bolstering these forces with better training and weapons should shift the brunt of the fight away from U.S. troops, Inslee said. He also expressed a desire for the Bush Administration to “listen to the voices in Congress” and begin drawing American soldiers out of the combat in the Middle East.

More than 1,700 US military personnel have been killed in Iraq since the war started in March 2003, according to figures released by the Pentagon.

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