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Kerry Criticizes Bush Troop Redeployment Plan - 2004-08-18

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry says President Bush's plan to redeploy up to 70,000 troops overseas will not help in the war on terror or relieve an overextended U.S. military. Senator Kerry made the comments at the same veterans convention where the president announced the redeployment on Monday.

In a speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Cincinnati, Senator Kerry said the president's plan to recall some troops from Europe and Asia is not being done at the right time or in the right way.

"And this hastily announced plan raises more doubts about our intentions and our commitments than it provides real answers," he said. "For example, why are we unilaterally withdrawing 12,000 troops from the Korean Peninsula at the very time we are negotiating with North Korea, a country that really has nuclear weapons."

Senator Kerry said the troop withdrawals would not strengthen the U.S. hand in the war on terror and would do little to relieve the strain on an overextended military.

The Massachusetts Democrat also told the veterans group that if he is elected president he would convince NATO allies and other nations to share the cost of the rebuilding effort in Iraq.

"I know what we have to do in Iraq," he said. "We need a president who has the credibility to bring our allies to our side, because that is the right way to get the job done in Iraq and bring our troops home."

Bush administration officials took issue with Senator Kerry's contention that withdrawing troops from South Korea might weaken the U.S. ability to help defend against a North Korean attack.

This is the chairman of the military Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers.

"Our deterrent posture will not change," said General Myers. "If anything, it is going to get better over time."

President Bush meanwhile took his re-election campaign to the Midwest state of Wisconsin Wednesday, one of 17 so-called battleground states that will be closely contested in the November election.

During his speech, the president criticized Senator Kerry for pledging to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq within six months if he is elected.

"I believe when America speaks, we must mean what we say, said President Bush. "We will complete the mission so that Iraq and Afghanistan are free and peaceful countries."

National security and the president's role as commander in chief of the armed forces are expected to be major concerns when voters head to the polls in November.