Bush Undecided On Iraq Troop Levels

US President George W. Bush speaks during a joint press conference with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono 20 November 2006 in Bogor, Indonesia. Bush is making a lightening visit to the world's most populous Muslim nation after attending the APEC Summit in Vietnam. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Getty Images/Mandel Ngan
President Bush said Monday that he hasn't decided yet on whether to send more U.S. troops to Iraq or to begin bringing them home, saying he is awaiting recommendations from the military.

The post-election debate over Iraq is intensifying as members of Congress from both parties pose remedies and the Bush administration hunts for answers.

"I haven't made any decisions about troop increases or troop decreases, and won't until I hear from a variety of sources," Mr. Bush replied during a joint press conference with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Sen. John McCain, a 2008 presidential hopeful, wants to send more troops to Iraq in an effort to stabilize the country. The Arizona Republican Sunday called for sending in 20,000 more U.S. troops to Iraq in addition to the roughly 140,000 there now to help curb rising sectarian violence.

McCain said more troops should be sent in and that the soldiers there now are "fighting and dying for a failed policy."

The president noted that Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was at work on a thorough review of options for Iraq.

The Iraq review has come up with three options — injecting more troops into Iraq, shrinking the force but staying longer or pulling out, The Washington Post reported Monday.

The newspaper quoted senior defense officials as dubbing the three alternatives "Go big, go long and go home."

The group's actions are so secret, the Post reported, that officials asked to help the review have not been told its title or mandate.

According to Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, the Pentagon is fixated on one option: "Increase now, decrease later."

The military could increase its presence in Iraq by 25,000 or 30,000 in the short term, O'Hanlon told CBS' The Early Show. "You ramp up in 2007 and then ramp it down to below 100,000 to maybe 60,000 or 70,000 in 2008, but we cannot go higher. We don't have a big enough military."

Also Sunday, Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel of New York proposed a military draft, which the administration has repeatedly said it does not need.

Democratic Sen. Carl Levin, the incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said troop withdrawals must begin within four to six months.

"I believe the consequences of failure are catastrophic," said McCain. "It will spread to the region. You will see Iran more emboldened. Eventually, you could see Iran pose a greater threat to the state of Israel."

Taking the opposite tack, newly empowered Democrats pressed their case for a phased withdrawal of American forces.

They hope a blue-ribbon advisory panel led by Bush family friend and former Secretary of State James Baker and former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton, would propose a way ahead for Iraq, while making clear the U.S. military mission shouldn't last indefinitely.