U.S. House Democrats unveiled legislation Thursday that would have U.S. combat troops out of Iraq by August 2008.
The troop withdrawal timetable would be embedded in appropriations legislation that provided nearly 100 billion U.S. dollars the Bush administration has requested for fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The measure would mark the first time the Democratic-controlled Congress has established a date certain for the end of U.S. combat in the Iraq war, which has lasted nearly four years and left nearly 3,200 U.S. troops dead, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at a news conference.
The measure would "refocus our military efforts on Afghanistan and fighting the war on terrorism where it began," said Pelosi, the first woman speaker in U.S. history.
The bill requires the Bush administration and the Iraqi government meet a series of benchmarks showing progress in bringing stability to Iraq, and that if those conditions have not been met, a 180-day withdrawal of U.S. troops would begin.
"No matter what, by March 2008, the redeployment begins," Pelosi said.
The Democratic measure was immediately attacked by Republicans.
The legislation proposed by Democrats amounted to "establishing and telegraphing to our enemy a timetable," said House Minority Leader John Boehner.
He said the top U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, who took command last month, should be the one "making the decisions on what happens on the ground in Iraq, not Nancy Pelosi or (Democratic Representative) John Murtha."
Democrats won control of both chambers of Congress in last November's elections, partly because of the public's strong opposition to the Iraq war.