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The battle over U.S. troops

By Wolf Blitzer

Both Kerry and Bush spoke this week at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Cincinatti, Ohio.
George W. Bush
John F. Kerry

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Almost exactly 48 hours after President Bush addressed the Veterans of Foreign Wars at their meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio, Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry showed up and took aim at the president's plan to bring home 70,000 U.S. troops from Europe and Asia.

"Nobody wants to bring troops home more than those of us who have fought in foreign wars. But it needs to be done at the right time and in a sensible way. This is not that time or that way," Kerry said Wednesday.

Kerry charged the president's plan undermines the U.S. war on terror by raising doubts about U.S. intentions and commitments around the world.

"With al Qaeda operating in 60 countries, we need closer alliances in every part of the world to fight and win the war on terror," said Kerry.

Kerry specifically questioned the timing of withdrawing 12,000 troops from South Korea just when the United States is negotiating with North Korea, which has nuclear weapons, citing the view of a key Republican supporter of the president.

"As Senator John McCain has said: 'I'm particularly concerned about moving troops out of South Korea when North Korea has probably never been more dangerous than any time since the end of the Korean War.' This is clearly the wrong signal to send at the wrong time," Kerry said.

The White House quickly shot back -- insisting the redeployment has been in the works for three years and South Korea is on board.

"Our commitment to South Korea and our defense commitments not only to South Korea as well as our other treaty allies in northeast Asia are unshakeable. And nobody should mistake the fact that we are committed to them," National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack told CNN Wednesday.

And as far as removing troops from Western Europe, McCormack noted that Germany has been reunited, the Cold War is over, and the Soviet Union has collapsed.

"Many of those units were placed where they are right now in order to defend a border that no longer exists, to fight an army that no longer is there, and to fight a war that was contested and won 10 years ago," McCormack said.

The president, while campaigning in Wisconsin, didn't respond directly to Kerry but did announce a new $10 million plan to help activated National Guard and Reserve personnel pay for their education.

"These brave Americans put their jobs on hold and leave their family behind when we called," Bush said.

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