Iraq Plan Seeks Up To 20,000 More Troops

Pentagon Seal over flag of Iraq with US Soldiers AP / CBS

CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports Defense Secretary Robert Gates has recommended that President Bush order an immediate buildup of 10,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, with an option of doubling that to 20,000 by spring.

The plan is known as "Five Plus Two," sending five Army brigades into Baghdad plus two Marine battalions into western Iraq. Two of the Army brigades would go into Baghdad starting in January, with the other three on call.

A senior defense official told The Associated Press that parts of the CBS report were incorrect but declined to say which parts or to comment on any recommendations Gates might have made to Bush.

Meanwhile, one day after taking control of Congress, the new Democratic leaders sent a blunt message to the president Friday: his new strategy should focus on bringing U.S. forces home, rather than the "surge" in troops he's considering.

In a letter sent to Mr. Bush on Friday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged him to begin pulling troops out of Iraq in four to six months. They also asked the president to begin shifting the mission of U.S. forces there from combat to training and logistical support of the Iraqis.

The Democrats' criticism of a troop buildup was not new. But the letter underscored a new reality for Mr. Bush: With the new congressional leadership, his Iraq policy will be challenged at every turn by lawmakers.

"Adding more combat troops will only endanger more Americans and stretch our military to the breaking point for no strategic gain," Pelosi, D-Calif., and Reid, D-Nev., wrote a day after their party took control of Capitol Hill.

"We are well past the point of more troops for Iraq," they said.

But Martin reports that one of the plan's architects, retired Army Gen. Jack Keane, has said the insurgency can't be defeated without first protecting Iraqi citizens from violence.

"We have never had a strategy to defeat the insurgency," Keane says. "And if we had a strategy to defeat the insurgency, then the No. 1 military objective would have been protect and support the population. That is what this plan is all about."

There have been temporary buildups before to protect Iraqis going to the polls to vote, but this would be different. The new plan would need to last a year and a-half.

"What is different is you bring in a 24/7 force and they stay in those neighborhoods and they do not go back to their bases," Keane explains. "They stay in the neighborhoods and that force is U.S. and Iraqi."

Defense Secretary Gates made an unannounced visit Friday to the headquarters of the U.S. central command in Florida, which has overall control of the war in Iraq and where he is installing new commanders.

To Frederick Kagan, another architect of the plan, the change is long overdue.

"For too long, I think the administration has allowed military leadership that was clearly on the wrong track to continue driving in the wrong direction," Kagan says.

The president on Friday nominated Adm. William Fallon, described by people who have worked for him as "caustic," "arrogant" and an "SOB," to take over central command from Gen. John Abizaid. Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, perhaps the most controversial officer in the Army because of his "Type A" personality and what many view as his too-cozy relationship with the media, will replace Gen. George Casey as top American general in Iraq. Both men must be approved by the Senate.

Both Abizaid and Casey have expressed qualms in recent weeks about boosting U.S. forces in Iraq. Abizaid said an increase of 20,000 could not be sustained for long by the overburdened American military, and Casey said such a boost should be used only to advance U.S. strategic goals.

Author Rick Atkinson spent two months with Petraeus during the initial invasion of Iraq.

According to Atkinson, "He [Petraeus] said at one point, perhaps a week into the war, 'Tell me how this ends. Tell me how this ends.' Now, there's an ironic inflection when he says this, but it was the right question. It's the right question four years later."
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    Scott Conroy is a National Political Reporter for RealClearPolitics and a contributor for CBS News.

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