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US Congress urged to review Iraq strategy

Written by: Staff
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WASHINGTON, Nov 21 (Reuters) As Democrats prepare to take control of the US Congress, a congressional report recommends that lawmakers re-examine US policy in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A review of efforts to stabilise and rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan tops a list of policies that are in need of fundamental reform and re-engineering, The Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, said in a report released yesterday.

''After 3 years of effort, the security situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate, Iraqi security forces have limited capabilities and divided loyalties, the central government has limited ability to govern the country and reconstruction lags,'' the GAO report reports.

The report also noted that in Afghanistan, the Taliban was rebounding in some areas and that deteriorating security conditions were undermining efforts to rebuild.

The new Congress that will be seated in January should re-examine plans and programs for stabilizing Iraq and Afghanistan and the costs of both efforts, the GAO report said.

Democrats, who wrested control of Congress from Republicans in elections this month, are trying to boost pressure on President George W Bush to overhaul his strategy in Iraq, where 2,864 US troops have died and sectarian violence is raging.

Bush has expressed his openness to a new approach in Iraq and has also said he is eager to hear the recommendations of an independent panel led by former Secretary of State James Baker and ex-congressman Lee Hamilton that is weighing alternative strategies.

The commission is likely to report its finding in coming weeks, likely next month.

Some in Washington are calling for Congress to move forward rather than dwelling on past Iraq policy. However, incoming House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats have promised oversight hearings that could explore such matters as whether Bush manipulated the facts to build early support for the Iraq war.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said in a Washington Post interview that Democrats owed it to voters who demanded to hold congressional hearings on Iraq strategy.

REUTERS SB VV0929

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