Heller noncommittal on support for ‘surge’ | NevadaAppeal.com

Heller noncommittal on support for ‘surge’

Nevada Republican congressional candidate Dean Heller debates opponent Democratic opponent Jill Derby in Reno, Nevada, on Friday, Oct. 20, 2006. Both candidates are running to fill the seat vacated by U.S. Congressman Jim Gibbons of Nevada. (AP Photo/Debra Reid)

Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., issued a noncommittal statement Monday praising the military progress in Iraq reported to Congress by Gen. David Patraeus while expressing concern about the lack of political progress.

But he said he was encouraged the general believes troop reductions can begin next year.

When he voted for the “surge,” Heller said Patraeus’ report on military progress and the Iraqi government’s success meeting its benchmarks would be key in his decision whether to continue supporting President Bush’s course on the war.

While Patraeus indicated the military is making real progress, a report to Congress by its own General Accounting Office last week indicated only three or four of the more than a dozen benchmarks have been met and that political progress is stalled because the Iraqi government is “either unwilling or unable to pull the country together.”

But despite repeated calls and e-mails to Heller and his press secretary Stewart Bybee, Heller could not be reached in person to discuss the issue Monday.

“Our role in Iraq is not an opened (sic) ended one and the ultimate responsibility for Iraq lies in the hands of the Iraqi people,” the statement said. “I look forward to reviewing the full report to determine for myself the extent of our progress in Iraq and what degree of U.S. involvement should be necessary in the future.”

Fellow Nevada Republican Jon Porter, however, made it clear he is staying with the president.

“The testimonies delivered today by General Petraeus and Ambassador (Ryan) Crocker were accurate, apolitical assessments which exclusively considered the facts,” said Porter in his statement.

“I call on my colleagues to reflect on the consequences of abrupt change,” Porter concluded.

Sen. John Ensign was also upbeat about the report to Congress saying military objectives are being met while violence and death are down dramatically.

“Credit goes to our troops who have integrated themselves into local communities and ensured that security and basic services are provided,” he said in his statement. “By providing the basic needs of water, power and sewage to Iraqi communities, we will see continued progress toward a stable and secure Iraq.”

He didn’t mention the political stalemate on which much of Congressional questioning focused during the report.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.