Richardson said the U.S. should begin withdrawing from Iraq.
(CNN)–New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson says United States troops need to begin leaving Iraq immediately.
Writing in an Op-Ed that appeared in the Washington Post Saturday, Richardson drew a sharp contrast between his position, and that of some of his fellow rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination.
"Clinton, Obama and Edwards reflect the inside-the Beltway thinking that a complete withdrawal of all American forces somehow would be 'irresponsible'," he said. "On the contrary, the facts suggest that a rapid, complete withdrawal - not a drawn out, Vietnam-like process - would be the most responsible and effective course of action."
"The American people need answers," he said. "If we elect a president who thinks that troops should stay in Iraq for years, they will stay for years–a tragic mistake."
Richardson, a former United States ambassador to the United Nations, said continued American military presence, would delay any political reconciliation among Iraqi factions.
"The presence of American forces in Iraq weakens us in the war against al-Qaeda," he went on to say. "It endows the anti-American propaganda of those who portray us as occupiers plundering Iraq's oil and repressing Muslims. The day we leave, this myth collapses, and the Iraqis will drive foreign jihadists out of their country."
Richardson wrote that it was logistically possible to withdraw from Iraq in six to eight months. "After the Persian Gulf War, we re-deployed nearly a half a million troops in a few months," he said. Some of his rivals for the nomination have said in previous debates that a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq would be a timely enterprise. Delaware Senator Joe Biden said it would take one year logistically to get all U.S. troops out.
Richardson also proposed regional security negotiations among all of Iraq's neighbors, and donations from wealthy nations in order to help rebuild Iraq.
Richardson is scheduled to appear in a debate with the other Democratic candidates in Miami Sunday, for a debate sponsored by the Univision network.
– CNN Political Desk Editor Jamie Crawford