Clinton fired back at the Pentagon Friday after it called a question of hers 'premature.'
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A day after reports of a testy exchange between Democratic Senator and presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton and the Department of Defense, CNN has learned that Clinton and Sen. John Kerry will join forces to introduce legislation requiring the Pentagon to brief Congress on the military's contingency plans for withdrawing from Iraq.
In May, Clinton sent a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates requesting that Gates brief the appropriate congressional committees about the Pentagon's contingency plans for withdrawal. Clinton's May letter also asked, in the alternative, that Gates explain why no such plans existed.
Earlier this week, Defense Department Undersecretary Eric Edelman responded to Clinton's letter" "Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia," wrote Edelman. Clinton, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, fired off another letter to Gates Thursday again requesting that the Pentagon brief Congress about withdrawal plans. Gates has yet to respond to Clinton's second letter.
CNN has learned that Clinton and Kerry are upping the ante and will introduce legislation that requires Gates to provide the congressional briefing Clinton has now requested twice. "From New Orleans to Baghdad, this administration has made planning a dirty word and an alien concept, and the damage to our country has been immeasurable as a result," Kerry told reporters on Friday. "We need to make sure that we are smarter getting out of Iraq than we were getting into Iraq," added Clinton.
Although Clinton said Friday that she believes the bill will have bipartisan interest, the ultimate success of the Clinton-Kerry briefing legislation is doubtful. Just last week Senate Republicans John Warner of Virginia and Richard Lugar of Indiana introduced similar legislation that would have required President Bush to provide post-surge military plans, including plans for an eventual withdrawal from Iraq. Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid of Nevada refused to let the Republican bill come up for a vote.
On Friday evening, Defense Secretary Gates released a statement regarding the Defense Department's dust-up with Clinton. Clearly trying to defuse the situation, Gates said he is a strong supporter of Congressional oversight and also of Congressional debate on Iraq. Gates also promised to look into the issues Clinton has raised.
- CNN's Dana Bash and Martina Stewart