Romney advocates non-public Iraq benchmarks

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, newly minted winner of the GOP’s first-quarter presidential fundraising sweepstakes, on Wednesday endorsed setting “timetables and milestones” for Iraq policy but keeping them private — an approach notably supported by Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor (Ark.).

“There’s no question that the president and Prime Minister al-Maliki [of Iraq] have to have a series of timetables and milestones that they speak about, but those shouldn’t be for public pronouncement. ... You don’t want the enemy to understand how long they have to wait in the weeds until you're going to be gone,” Romney said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

While Romney stopped short of describing his preferred timetables as a path leading to U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, the concept of secret guideposts for war policy closely resembles Pryor’s plan, which the centrist Democrat first put in writing last month as an amendment to his leadership’s non-binding resolution on troop redeployment.

“At the end of the day, the president doesn't have an exit plan,” Pryor spokesman Michael Teague said in an interview. “We think he should be forced to develop that, and we’re happy to see Mitt Romney feels the same way.”

A handful of bloggers have lampooned the classified-plan-for-Iraq proposal as reminiscent of former President Richard Nixon’s “secret plan” to end the war in Vietnam. Teague, acknowledging that some lawmakers have rejected Pryor’s strategy, issued a challenge to its critics.

“When any [congressional] codel has gone to Iraq, we don’t make public their movements ... because we don’t want them to get killed,” Teague said. “Sen. Pryor feels we should take the same approach to our soldiers.”

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