Gen. John Abizaid told the Senate Armed Services Committee Wednesday that the "prudent course" for Iraq would be to keep U.S. troops levels "about where they are." The president appears to have other ideas.
In a report in the Guardian, Simon Tisdall says that the president wants to make one "last big push" to win the war by sending an additional 20,000 U.S. troops to Iraq to join the approximately 150,000 already there.
Tisdall suggests that the Bush plan will form the framework for whatever James Baker's Iraq Study Group ends ups suggesting. He says the group is now building its recommendations around a four-point "victory strategy" developed by Pentagon officials who are working with the group. Point one is the increase in troop strength; the other three involve increasing cooperation with other powers in the region, attempting some sort of national reconciliation among Shiites, Sunnis and others, and boosting funding for U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces while working harder to stop corruption and improve the Iraqi government.
The Bush plan -- if this is the Bush plan -- isn't likely to make anyone particularly happy. It's not the beginning of a troop withdrawal that a lot of Democrats would like to see, and it's not the sort of dramatic and decisive troop buildup that John McCain and a handful others have been advocating. It is, as Bush's troop-level decisions have been all along, a half-measure, its middle-road approach made more striking every time the president declares the war in Iraq to be part of the "decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century."
A former senior administration official tells Tisdall that the proposal is both a shot in the dark and a bid to buy time. The former official says that Bush remains "in a state of denial about Iraq," but that he knows that he's got "less than a year, maybe six months, to make it work." If the latest plan fails, the former official says to watch for the withdrawal process to begin next fall.