The U.S. military occupation of Iraq could cost from $8 billion to $29 billion annually, but the least expensive option would dramatically reduce the force, according to scenarios analyzed by the Congressional Budget Office.
Relying mostly on active-duty soldiers serving one-year tours, without expanding the military's overall size, could cost from $8 billion to $12 billion yearly, the nonpartisan budget office said in a report released Tuesday.
To retain adequate levels of military readiness worldwide, that policy — which the Pentagon is now following — would force the United States to begin reducing its troop strength in Iraq below current levels by next March, the study said.
Under that scenario, the 180,000 American troops now in and around Iraq would have to be drawn down to 38,000 to 64,000 by the winter of 2004-2005, the analysis said.
The report comes with President Bush's policies in Iraq under fire from critics who say American troops there are stretched thin and are suffering steadily growing, though still relatively small, numbers of casualties.
American officials also still are finding that many nations remain reluctant to send significant numbers of troops to Iraq. Many lawmakers of both parties are complaining about the impact that U.S. involvement there will have on a federal budget already deeply in deficit.
In other developments: Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis mourned the moderate Shiite cleric assassinated in a car bombing last week. The man's brother blamed lax U.S. security for the attack, which is believed to have been done by al Qaeda or Saddam loyalists.A Black Hawk helicopter crashed south of Baghdad Tuesday, killing one U.S. soldier and injuring a second in a "non-hostile" incident, U.S. military spokesman Spc. Anthony Reinoso said. The death raised to 286 the number of American forces killed in the Iraq war.Thomas White, who was forced to resign as Army secretary in May, has fired back in a book that describes the Bush administration's postwar effort in Iraq as "anemic" and "totally inadequate." Jessica Lynch, the former prisoner of war whose capture and rescue from an Iraqi hospital made her a national hero, has agreed to a $1 million book deal with publisher Alfred A. Knopf. The book is due out in November. With the cost of rebuilding Iraq set to run into tens of billions of dollars, European officials say the United States is intensifying a search for foreign help to pay the bill, even if that means sharing more control over the reconstruction agenda. Iraq's 25-member Governing Council on Monday announced a Cabinet that mirrored exactly the council's ethnic and religious breakdown with 13 Shiites, five Sunni Arabs, five Kurds (also Sunnis), one ethnic Turk and an Assyrian Christian.