[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/03/19/art.clintonsp.ap.jpg caption=" Clinton marked the 5 year anniversary of Iraq Wednesday."]CHARLESTON, West Virginia (CNN) - On the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq, Hillary Clinton re-emphasized her plan to withdraw U.S. forces from the country and said “we won’t protect” the Iraqis if the their government fails to make meaningful political progress.
The New York senator was asked by an audience member here, on her first campaign stop in West Virginia, about her strategy to end the war.
Clinton explained that her three-part plan begins with finding the best way, in consultation with top military advisers, to withdraw American troops in 60 days. Iraq’s future, she said, should be up to Iraq’s political leaders.
“The Iraqis have not done what they had to do to secure their own future,” she said. “And I have said I don’t believe our men and women should stay there to fight their civil war.”
“So we will start bringing them home and we will tell Iraqis the ball is in their court,” she continued. “Now, we will help them, we will support them, but we will not protect them if they refuse to do what we want them to do.”
Clinton said that she is “of course” worried that Iraq could disintegrate if U.S. forces withdraw, but stated: “If the Iraqis are not ready to take responsibility for themselves, it’s not going to make a difference.”
A strong diplomatic effort in the region is also required to bolster Iraqi security, she told the audience.