While appearing on CBS’ Face The Nation on Sunday morning, Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) acknowledged that the GOP is starting to understand that another change in strategy will be necessary in Iraq this fall. “I think most of the people in Congress believe, unless something extraordinary occurs, that we should be on a move to draw that surge number down. I don’t believe we need a soldier in Iraq a single day longer than is necessary to serve our national interests. We’ve had a tough year, there’s no doubt about it. In 2005 General Casey thought we could draw down troops in 2006, and we’ve not been able to do that. But this government in Iraq has got to step up, and we’ve got to be able to draw our troop levels down, to be in a more supportive role, an embedding role, a training role, and they’ve got to defend their own country,” Sessions said.

After moderator Bob Schieffer asked if Sessions meant that if things don’t change on the ground in Iraq the GOP would no longer be able to support keeping more troops in Iraq Sessions said, “I’m thinking that we need to reach a bipartisan understanding if it’s any way possible. And I was glad we got this supplemental resolution passed. Any delay beyond this last week would have been very bad in my opinion for our troops’ morale and for our overall efforts. So we have to be realistic. We have to know that we can’t achieve everything we’d like to achieve. We have a limited number of men and women we can send to Iraq and we can’t overburden them. And so we’re facing some tough choices. If we do the thing right, we need to listen. My first thought is that we absolutely need to listen to General Petraeus whose written the book on how to defeat an–a counterinsurgency for the military.”

Schieffer then asked Sessions what he thought a different kind of strategy for Iraq would be Sessions said, “I don’t think we need to be an occupying power. This is a fine line we’ve walked, and this surge has got to be temporary. We do not need to be and cannot be perceived as just occupying Iraq for any extended period of time. General Abizaid always was concerned about that. I shared his concerns.” Schieffer asked if Sessions thinks that President Bush “gets it,” and if the Senator and the president are on the same page on Iraq. Sessions said, “I think he is coming around to that. A note in the , I believe, The New York Times yesterday that top defense officials are talking about a major reduction in 2008 in the number of troops, and they’re working on plans that would be harmonious with that concept. I certainly hope that’s will occur. We cannot sustain this level, in my opinion, in Iraq and Afghanistan much longer.”

It is no coincidence that the White House is considering a major troop reduction in 2008. I don’t think President Bush is going to be able to withstand the pressure from members of his own party to get the troops mostly out of Iraq before the General Election campaign. It also sounded like Sessions was suggesting that if the president doesn’t come around to the congressional GOP point of view, they are prepared to join with the Democrats and act without him. September could be the start of the political endgame to get the troops out of Iraq. I think it is pretty clear that the Republican Party leaned their lesson in the 2006 election. They aren’t going to stand by the president’s failed policy and take another pasting at the polls.

Face the Nation transcript

Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at 411mania.com.  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at www.411mania.com/politics

Jason can also be heard every Sunday afternoon at 1:30 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thepoliticaluniverse  blog radio 

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