Several thousand Marines, who normally are not used for occupation duty but are held in reserve to respond to crises around the world, will be sent to Iraq in an effort to take some of the burden off the Army, which is so hard-pressed for troops it recently decided to send a company from its ceremonial Old Guard to the Horn of Africa.
More than 30,000 reservists will have to be called up.
CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin reports the call-ups are part of a new troop rotation plan that will actually reduce the number of American soldiers in Iraq by next spring. The current level of 130,000 troops will come down by several thousand, Pentagon officials say, but still remain above 100,000.
In other developments:
An influential adviser to the Pentagon received a secret message from a Lebanese-American businessman indicating that Saddam Hussein wanted to make a deal, ABC News and The New York Times reported Wednesday evening.
The chief of the Iraqi Intelligence Service and other Iraqi officials had told the businessman that they wanted Washington to know that Iraq no longer had weapons of mass destruction and offered to let American troops and experts do an independent search, the Times said. The Iraqi officials also offered to hand over a man accused of being involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing who was being held in Baghdad.
Messages from Baghdad, first relayed by the businessman in February to an analyst in the office of Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy and planning, were part of an attempt by Iraqi officers to persuade the Bush administration to open talks through a clandestine channel, people involved in the discussion told the Times.
The attempts were portrayed by Iraqi officials as having Saddam's endorsement, but it was not clear if American officials viewed them as legitimate.
In early March, Richard Perle, an adviser to top Pentagon officials, reportedly met in London with the Lebanese-American businessman, Imad Hage. According to both men, Hage laid out the Iraqis' position and pressed the Iraqi request for a direct meeting with Perle or other U.S. representatives.
Perle said the CIA authorized his meeting with the Iraqis, but he said CIA officials eventually told him they didn't want to pursue the channel.
Congress was told about the new troop plan Wednesday with details to be released Thursday.
The overall number of troops battling the resistance in Iraq is expected to go way up since the Pentagon plans to recruit and train a quarter-million Iraqis for security duties. More than 100,000 Iraqis are already under arms and before much longer will outnumber American forces, although their level of training and degree of loyalty remain unanswered questions.
The U.S. had been counting on countries like Turkey, South Korea and Pakistan to provide a division's worth of troops but that no longer appears likely, and the Pentagon has been forced to scramble to make up the difference.
Besides looking to the Marines and more reservists, news reports indicate U.S. officials are warming to the idea of remobilizing parts of the Iraqi armed forces, and arming militia associated with leading political groups. The new forces would have more power than the Iraqi police force currently under construction.
One soldier from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment was killed about 8 a.m. Thursday when his truck hit a land mine near the Husaybah border crossing point with Syria about 315 kilometers (195 miles) northwest of Baghdad, the military said.
A paratrooper from the 82nd Airborne Division was killed and two others wounded when their patrol came under rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire near Mahmudiyah, 15 miles south of Baghdad, about 8 p.m. Wednesday, the military said.
Their deaths brought to 140 the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq by hostile fire since President Bush declared an end to major combat May 1. A total of 114 U.S. soldiers were killed in the active combat phase which began March 20.
Two rockets were fired Wednesday evening at a U.S. civil-military operations center in Samara north of Baghdad but caused no damage or casualties, Maj. Jossyln Aberle, spokeswoman of the 4th Infantry Division, said.
Insurgents attacked three American military convoys in the northern city of Mosul — long considered relatively safe for U.S. troops — with rocket-propelled grenades and roadside bombs Wednesday, killing three Iraqi civilians and wounding five Americans, the U.S. military and hospital officials said.