Despite the almost daily car bombings — today's killed 25 — commanders in the field report modest progress. But they have also concluded the Iraqi government will not meet any of the benchmarks for political reconciliation among its warring factions, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports in a CBS News exclusive.
As Adm. William Fallon, the overall commander for the Middle East, put it, "reconciliation isn't likely in the time we have available."
Right now, Plan B is nothing more than ideas about how the United States could change course in Iraq. But it is a recognition that both political support and the Army are wearing out.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates hopes to start withdrawing by the end of the year. A complete pullout of troops and equipment would take an estimated 10 months, but would probably trigger the collapse of the Iraqi government.
"I don't think there's the real option to withdraw completely, because it's quite clear the Iraqi government wouldn't survive complete withdrawal," said Daniel Serwer, the former director of the Iraq Study Group.
Just six months ago, the group recommended pulling all combat troops out in 2008. But he says that it no longer possible.
"You're talking about staying from five to 10 more years," he said. "You're not talking about staying a few more months."
At current levels?
"Maybe with some drawdown, but at close to current levels," Serwer said.
Plan B, as it is known, is not an official document. Commanders in the field believe the surge will have to continue into next year, but that military advice is on a collision course with political reality.