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Sep 20, 2011 7:00 PM by Dennis Bragg (KPAX News)

Tester calls for troops to leave Iraq at year's end

WASHINGTON, D.C.- U.S. Senator Jon Tester says the Obama Administration should stick with its original timeline and pull troops out of Iraq by the end of the year.

Tester made that statement while speaking on the floor of the Senate Tuesday, offering praise for troops who have "never faltered" while providing "security and Democracy to a nation that had never known it."

But Montana's junior senator says it's time for those troops to come home.

"Iraq now has the tools it needs to secure its people and its economy," Tester said. "Iraq's new leaders must solve their problems for their own people. Keeping thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq would needlessly put them in more danger. It would cost American taxpayers more money. And it would further distract us from our core national security objectives of protecting American citizens and further dismantling al-Qaeda and other terrorists groups."

In a letter sent today to President Obama, Tester said U.S. troops "should not be in Iraq one minute more than is necessary."

The Status of Forces Agreement signed by President Bush and the Iraqi government calls for withdrawing Operation New Dawn troops from Iraq by year's end. Although there has been no official announcement, recent news reports suggest the possibility of keeping several thousand U.S. troops in Iraq past the December 31 deadline.

"We cannot afford moving the goal post," Tester told his colleagues today. "Across Montana, and this nation, people are saying: Come home now."

Tester said U.S. Marines should continue to guard America's embassies, and that the U.S. should maintain a "strong diplomatic presence" in Iraq.

Contact Dennis Bragg

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