Is Bush Considering A Troop Decrease?

Thousands more U.S. troops now head into Iraq's killing fields. But that surge could be slammed into reverse, according to a report in the New York Times, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann.

As U.S. troop deaths mount, the White House is now said to be talking about slashing its combat presence in Iraq by roughly a third, from about 150,000 soldiers to 100,000 — just in time for the 2008 election.

It's a discussion that acknowledges a deepening Republican concern. A CBS News poll out this week showed 76 percent of Americans think the war in Iraq is going badly.

"The White House is thinking over the longer term. They would love (a troop withdrawal) to be possible for 2008. They will talk as if it's at least a remote possibility for 2008. But they don't really think they can do this," said Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institute.

If those U.S. troops leave any time soon, Iraq's mayhem could worsen, and quickly.

Recently even the commander of Iraq's ground forces said that his troops just aren't ready.

"In this era — at this time — we need the help and the support of the coalition forces," Lt. Gen. Ali Gedan Majeed said through an interpreter.

The surge's goal? Give Iraq's government time to tackle tough issues.

But they've made little progress. And Iraq is looking at a bloody summer, which President Bush acknowledged this week.

"We're going to expect heavy fighting in the weeks and months. We can expect more American and Iraqi casualties," said Mr. Bush at a news conference.

The White House today played down the report of major troop cuts. But even talk about it now suggests there's been no surge in U.S. confidence that Iraq's crisis will improve any time soon.
  • Joel Roberts

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