WASHINGTON (AP) - Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday urged the Pentagon to plan quickly for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, yet she refused to say how she would vote on a war spending bill.
"We've been hearing that there is either no or very limited planning for withdrawal," the Democratic presidential candidate said. "Withdrawal is very complicated. If they're not planning for it, it will be difficult to execute it in a safe and efficacious way."
While pushing for quick action on contingency plans, the New York lawmaker was not ready to take a public position on a war spending bill due for a vote as early as Thursday.
"When I have something to say, I will say it," Clinton said. In recent statements, she has left unclear her position on when the bulk of U.S. troops should leave Iraq.
She asked military officials in a private meeting and a public letter to explain how they would bring forces home.
Clinton met privately with Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Peter Pace late Tuesday and wrote Defense Secretary Robert Gates urging military leaders to begin such planning if they have not already.
In Baghdad, Iraqi military officials apparently are drawing up plans for the possibility of a withdrawal of U.S. forces. In Washington, congressional Democrats failed to muster enough votes for legislation forcing a timed withdrawal.
Clinton now wants the Pentagon to brief lawmakers on their withdrawal contingency plans.
Last week, after voting to advance a bill that would force withdrawal by March 2008, Clinton said she would not commit to supporting that deadline. Hours later, she said she would in fact support that deadline. That led one Democratic presidential rival, Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, to question what her position actually is.
Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, also in the 2008 race, would not say Wednesday how he planned to vote on the war spending bill. Dodd said he would vote against it because it did not contain a deadline.
Clinton voted in 2002 to authorize the Iraq invasion, but became a constant critic of the Bush administration's handling of the war.
That original vote still upsets many anti-war Democrats, who were further infuriated by her long-running opposition to a date certain deadline for withdrawal. She seemed to back off that stance with her recent comments on supporting the March 2008 deadline.
Clinton sided with 28 other senators who lost a procedural vote on the measure offered by Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis. The amendment would have cut off money for combat operations after March 2008.