Pentagon seeks escalation in the face of defeat


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

December 16, 2006

Options Weighed for Surge in G.I.¹s to Stabilize Iraq

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 ‹ Military planners and White House budget analysts have 
been asked to provide President Bush with options for increasing American forces
in Iraq by 20,000 or more. The request indicates that the option of a major 
³surge² in troop strength is gaining ground as part of a White House strategy 
review, senior administration officials said Friday.

Discussion of increasing the number of American troops, at least temporarily, 
has coursed through Washington for two months, as a possible way to reverse the 
deteriorating security situation in Baghdad. But the decision to ask the Joint 
Chiefs of Staff to specify where the additional forces could be found among 
overstretched Army, Marine and National Guard units, and to seek a cost estimate
from the White House Office of Management and Budget, signifies a turn in the 

Officials said that the options being considered included the deployment of 
upwards of 50,000 additional troops, but that the political, training and 
recruiting obstacles to an increase larger than 20,000 to 30,000 troops would be

At present, only about 17,000 American soldiers are actively involved in the 
effort to secure Baghdad, so even the low end of the proposals being considered 
by military and budget officials could more than double the size of that force. 
If adopted, such an increase would be a major departure from the current 
strategy advocated by Gen. George W. Casey Jr., which has stressed stepping up 
the training of Iraqi forces and handing off to them as soon as possible.

The details of the plan under study by the White House are not known, but in 
most scenarios the troop increase would be accomplished in large part by 
accelerating some scheduled deployments while delaying the departure of units in

President Bush has made no final decision, the White House said. Gordon 
Johndroe, the National Security Council spokesman, said that no memorandums 
outlining the options for increasing troop strength had gone to the president. 
But one senior official said the subject was discussed at length on Wednesday 
during Mr. Bush¹s briefing at the Pentagon, and the president has reportedly 
asked detailed questions that some officials have interpreted as suggesting that
he is strongly leaning in that direction.

American military officials said Friday night that the Pentagon was planning to 
send the Second Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division to Kuwait in January. The 
brigade, based at Fort Bragg, N.C., would serve as a reserve that commanders in 
Iraq could draw on.

American military commanders have been operating without such a reserve since 
the Marine unit that had been on call was dispatched to Anbar Province in 
western Iraq. The Army brigade could become an element of a larger troop 
deployment to Iraq if the White House decided to increase troops there.

That option has been central to a broader debate in Washington. Advocates of a 
troop increase say the aim would be to reverse the slide toward an all-out civil
war and give the new Iraqi government more time to consolidate control, while 
training of Iraqis is stepped up.

At the same time, American and Iraqi forces would try to tamp down strife in 
neighborhoods that contain Shiites and Sunnis, and slow insurgent attacks. To be
effective, proponents say, these tactics would need to be married to a broader 
political and economic strategy to generate employment in Baghdad and stabilize 

Critics of a surge approach have argued that any American troop increase would 
lead to more American casualties and merely put off the day when the Iraqis need
to assume responsibility for their own security.

There is also concern that the military benefits would be short-lived unless the
higher troop levels were sustained for a long period, adding to the strain on 
American forces. Alternatively, critics say, if the surge in troop levels was 
too brief, adversaries could simply wait for the reinforcements to leave.

Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, said during a visit to Baghdad this 
week that American military commanders were discussing the possibility of adding
as many as 10 more combat brigades ‹ a maximum of about 35,000 troops ‹ to 
establish some of control while Iraq¹s divided political leaders seek solutions 
to the mounting violence.

On Friday, however, one administration official said that additional work was 
needed to fit a troop increase into the larger strategy, as well as on technical
aspects about how the operation would be carried out. ³There has not been a full
articulation of what we would want the surge to accomplish,² he said.

Strikingly, the surge proposal has not been actively promoted by the top 
commander in Iraq. General Casey, the senior American commander in Baghdad, has 
emphasized faster training of Iraqi security forces, an effort that would be 
supported in part by converting existing combat forces into trainers.

Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top American commander in the Middle East, has said 
that the advantages of a surge in troop levels would be temporary, and that it 
might dissuade Iraqis from doing more to provide for their own security.

Some of the chiefs of the services that would supply forces for the surge have 
spoken about it in hedged terms. ³We would not surge without a purpose,² Peter 
J. Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, told reporters on Thursday. ³And that 
purpose should be measurable.²

But Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, who is assuming day-to-day command of American 
troops in Iraq from Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, is said to be sympathetic to 
the idea.

The surge proposal has also gained greater support among recently retired 
officers who served in Iraq, particularly if carried out as part of a broader 
political and economic strategy.

Two retired Army veterans who served in the unit that took control of the 
northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar in 2005 ‹ Col. Joel Armstrong and Maj. Daniel 
Dwyer ‹ helped draft a new study issued Thursday by the American Enterprise 
Institute that called for sending an additional four or five combat brigades, or
some 14,000 to 17,500 troops, to Baghdad.

The study determined that the military could sustain a surge of that level, but 
that it would require sending several Army brigades back to Iraq a couple of 
months early and extending the customary yearlong Army tour to 15 months.

In its report last week, the bipartisan Iraq Study Group rejected the idea of a 
³substantial² force increase on the order of 100,000 to 200,000 troops, saying 
that those levels were not ³available for a sustained deployment² and would feed
fears in Iraq that the United States was planning a long-term occupation.

³We could, however, support a short-term redeployment or surge of American 
combat forces to stabilize Baghdad,² the report added, ³or to speed up the 
training and equipping mission, if the U.S. commander in Iraq determines that 
such steps would be effective.²

Bush Speaks With Maliki

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 ‹ President Bush held a videoconference with the Iraqi prime
minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, on Friday, the eve of a Baghdad conference aimed
at cooling sectarian violence.

At the conference, Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni Arab politicians are expected to 
discuss a reconciliation plan that includes possible amnesty for insurgent 
fighters and proposals to curb militia violence.

White House officials said Mr. Bush spoke by secure video with Mr. Maliki for 
roughly half an hour.

Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said Mr. Maliki 
talked about his desire ³for a larger core of Iraqi political leaders to come 
together for the common objective of stabilizing Iraq.² The Bush administration 
has been encouraging Mr. Maliki to rely less on the radical Shiite cleric 
Moktada al-Sadr.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

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