'Early US withdrawal will worsen Iraq violence'

The top US commander in the Middle East warned Congress against setting a timetable for withdrawing US troops from Iraq, rejecting the arguments of resurgent Democrats who are pressing President George W. Bush to start pulling out. Gen. John Abizaid instead urged quick action to strengthen Iraq's government, predicting that the vicious sectarian violence in Baghdad would surge out of control within four to six months unless immediate steps were taken. "Our troop posture needs to stay where it is," and the use of military adviser teams embedded with Iraqi army and police forces needs to be expanded, Abizaid told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday. It was the first hearing on Iraq policy since last week's elections gave Democrats control of both houses of Congress starting in January.