Meanwhile, the "surge" keeps surging

As a withdrawal measure fails in the Senate, Petraeus asks for even more troops.

Published March 16, 2007 12:23PM (EDT)

A day after Senate Republicans -- with the help of Democrats Ben Nelson and Mark Pryor and independent Joe Lieberman -- beat back an effort to bring the Iraq war to a close, the Boston Globe is reporting that Gen. David Petraeus wants to add even more troops to the escalation already in progress.

George W. Bush's "surge" was supposed to involve about 21,500 combat troops. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that many more troops would have to be sent to support the president's additional combat troops, a claim the White House denied before it admitted: Last weekend, the president sent a letter to Congress in which he said he'd be sending 4,700 additional troops to Iraq. "Those combat troops are going to need, you know, some support, and that's what the American people are seeing in terms of Iraq -- the support troops necessary to help the reinforcements do their job," Bush said at the time.

Now what they're going to see, if Petraeus' request is approved, is an additional 2,500 to 3,000 American soldiers heading for Iraq. The troops would be part of a combat aviation unit that uses both "transport aircraft and powerful gunships," the Post says. A Pentagon official says it all stands to reason: You can't send 21,500 more combat troops into war without providing them the air support they need.

Maybe that's right, but why couldn't the White House just be honest about the size of the "surge" from the beginning? Even AEI's Frederick Kagan, one of the world's most outspoken advocates of the escalation, is asking that question now. "There is a problem in the way the administration reported the surge numbers to begin with," Kagan tells the Globe. "Petraeus has now requested what many thought would be needed to begin with, but it looks like another surge."

It also looks like the opposite of what a majority of the American people want. In a CNN poll released this week, 59 percent of the respondents said they oppose Bush's plan to "send about 20,000 more U.S. troops to Iraq in an attempt to stabilize the situation there," and 58 percent said the U.S. should either begin withdrawing its troops from Iraq immediately or have all troops out within a year.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

MORE FROM Tim Grieve

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Iraq War War Room