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Pentagon Reviewing Three Plans For Iraq

Pentagon Seal over flag of Iraq with US Soldiers
AP / CBS
The debate over what to do about the war on Iraq - complete with catch phrases to describe each plan - has intensified, with word of a secret report on the issue, commissioned by Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In Geneva Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan added his voice to the discussion, urging the U.S. to carefully consider when would be the best time to pull out of the country so that the withdrawal does not lead to a further deterioration of security.

"The United States, in a way, is trapped in Iraq," said Annan. "It cannot stay and it cannot leave. There are those who maintain that its presence is a problem and there are those who say that if it leaves precipitously, the situation will get worse."

Monday, four approaches to the Iraq war were dubbed "Go Big," "Go Long," "Go Home," and "Go Iraqi."

The Washington Post says the first three options are reviewed in a secret report commissioned by Pace: put more troops in Iraq; withdraw some troops but maintain a U.S. military presence for a longer than anticipated period of time; or, pull out all U.S. troops.

Questions would remain for U.S. strategy in Iraq even if troop strength is increased, says retired Army Col. Mitch Mitchell, a military analyst for CBS' Up To The Minute.

"What are they going to be used for? Is this an arbitrary number or is there a real mission for them? How will that mission contribute to the overall mission in Iraq of ending the war?" says Mitchell. "I wonder, if all that has been thought through, or, whether these statements are capricious and arbitrary."

A fourth option - "Go Iraqi" - was proposed Monday by the outgoing chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Duncan Hunter (GOP, Calif.), in a letter sent to President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

"We have 114 battalions of Iraqi soldiers - trained and equipped," said Hunter, who is considering running for president. "They are spread out throughout the country; roughly nine of the 18 provinces have very little action. In fact, fewer than one attack a day in those nine provinces - half the country. In those nine provinces are 27 Iraqi batallions. Those Iraqi battalions could be sent in to the contested areas in Baghdad and should be sent. The best way to mature a military force is through operations."

"This is a time to test the leadership of Iraqi battalions," Hunter continued. "We could now right now saddle those forces up and send them into the contentious areas... that would stand them up as an operational military force."

Much of the debate in Washington is focusing on the alternatives reportedly discussed in the study commissioned by Pace.

"The 'Go Long' approach is one that can work if there is sufficient strategic patience, resources appropriated and [if] leadership executes effectively," a military intelligence official told the Washington Post.

The "Go Big" and "Go Home" options look more like straw men, reports CBS News national security correspondent David Martin. "Go Big" is a massive buildup to crush the insurgency. That is considered militarily and politically impractical. And "Go Home" considers a relatively quick withdrawal, which most experts believe would end any chance of saving Iraq.

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 News. "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."

Sen. John McCain, a 2008 presidential hopeful and Vietnam War veteran, is among those advocating an increase of U.S. troops in Iraq. The Arizona Republican is calling for 20,000 more troops to be sent to Iraq in addition to the roughly 140,000 there now.

McCain said the soldiers who are in Iraq now are "fighting and dying for a failed policy."

"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."