'Big push' before withdrawal? The British daily The Guardian revealed on Thursday that instead of a speedy retreat from Iraq, US President George W. Bush is planning to increase America's forces by up to 20,000 soldiers, this according to senior sources within the US administration.
According to the report, President Bush told advisers that the US and its allies must make "a last big push" to win the war in Iraq.
According to the sources, the fact that Bush absolutely refuses into the growing calls from within the US and Britain for a hurried withdrawal, has had a crucial impact on the policy review being conducted by the Iraq Study Group.
The panel is expected to put forth a four-point "victory strategy" developed by Pentagon officials advising the group. According to the Guardian, the first point of the strategy will call for an increase rather than a decrease in overall US force levels inside Iraq, possibly by as many as 20,000 soldiers.
The reinforcements will be used to secure Baghdad, scene of the worst sectarian and insurgent violence, and enable redeployments of US, coalition and Iraqi forces elsewhere in the country.
US troops in Iraq. Reinforcements will be used to aid security efforts (Photo: Reuters)
Point two of the plan will focus on the importance of regional cooperation to the successful rehabilitation of Iraq. This could involve the convening of an international conference of neighboring countries or more direct diplomatic, financial and economic involvement of US allies such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
Commentators told the Guardian that the extent of the regional cooperation with Iran and Syria remains unclear. David Satterfield, a top state department official, said America was prepared in principle to discuss with Iran its activities in Iraq.
Point three will focus on attempting to reconcile Shia, Sunni and other ethnic and religious parties. According to the Guardian's sources, creating a credible political framework is crucial in persuading both Iraqis and neighboring countries alike that Iraq is a fully functional state.
The fourth point will apparently call for increased resources to be allocated by Congress to support additional troop deployments and fund the training and equipment of expanded Iraqi army and police forces.
US general: No to phased withdrawal
The New York Times however reports on Thursday that the chief US military commander in the Middle East, Gen. John P. Abizaid, warned of a withdrawal of too many forces from Iraq over the next six months will lead to further escalation of sectarian violence and hamper efforts to steer the Iraqi government in the direction of the steps necessary to secure the country.
Gen. Abizaid made it clear that he did not endorse the phased troop withdrawals proposed by Democrats. Instead, he said the number of troops in Iraq might be increased to improve the training of the Iraqi Army. Gen.
Abizaid did not rule out a larger troop increase, but was concerned that such an expansion might dissuade the Iraqis from making more of an effort to provide for their own security.