Hillary, Like McCain, Sees Progress In Anbar

Asked yesterday during a Town Hall-style event in Red Oak, Iowa about what to do about Iraq, Hillary Clinton made the familiar argument that the troops needed to be extricated from a civil war. But she also added some notably optimistic comments about the soldiers' recent success in the mostly Sunni Al Anbar province where Al Qaeda has its stronghold.

"The war is 360 degrees, there is no battlefield," she said. "So I want to get our combat troops out of a sectarian, civil war. And I have also said, and I somewhat do differ with some of my other colleagues, I think you have to take a hard look at the situation we are in. We are making some progress it turns out, in what is called Al Anbar province against al Qaeda, and the reason we are is that our military leaders have learned a lot in the last several years there and they have made common cause with some of the tribal leaders, who don't like Al Qaeda any more than we do because Al Qaeda is also going after them."

The Iraq advisor to John McCain, who last week called Clinton's plan to revoke authorization for the war the "the worst possible idea that anybody could have," basically said the same thing to me in a recent interview.

Clinton clearly disagrees with McCain on what type of force should be left in Iraq to fight Al Qaeda. McCain strongly backs President Bush's so called surge of about 20,000 troops while Hillary says it will be a vastly reduced force.

Some other Democratic candidates, most notably, Bill Richardson, have called for a complete withdrawal of all combat and residual forces. Hillary explained yesterday why she disagrees.

"We don't want Al Qaeda to get a foothold in Iraq. They weren't there before but they're there now," she said. "So we may need to leave some troops to deal with the Al Qaeda remnant, primarily situated in Al Anbar. They are the ones who mostly are attacking our troops, attacking the markets, attacking the mosques, because they do the very dramatic and fiery suicide bombings that kill so many Iraqis and kill our young men and women."