Powell: Next president must reduce US forces in Iraq

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday that President George W. Bush's successor will have to come to grips with the reality that the United States cannot continue to keep such large numbers of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Without taking sides in the race for the White House, Powell said, "Whichever one of them becomes president on Jan. 1, 2009, they will face a military force that cannot continue to sustain 140,000 people deployed in Iraq and the 20 [thousand] odd or 25,000 people we have deployed in Afghanistan and our other deployments." Powell's comments in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America" seemed to undercut Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting John McCain's position that the US should stay the course in Iraq. But Powell also said that the next president will face limitations on bringing troops home, as Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton - rivals for the Democratic nomination - have promised to do. "They will have to continue to draw down at some pace," he said. "None of them are going to have the flexibility of just saying we're out of here, turn off the switch, turn off the lights, we're leaving. They will have a situation before them." "I thought that Senator Obama handled the issue well," said Powell, the nation's first black secretary of state. "He didn't abandon the minister that brought him closer to his faith, but at the same time he deplored the kinds of statements that the Reverend Wright had made."