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Troop Surge Already Under Way

ABC | January 10, 2007 

President Bush's speech may be scheduled for tonight, but the troop surge in Iraq is already under way.

ABC News has learned that the "surge" Bush is expected to announce in a prime time speech tonight has already begun. Ninety advance troops from the 82nd Airborne Division arrived in Baghdad today.

An additional battalion of roughly 800 troops from the same division are expected to arrive in Baghdad Thursday.

It is the first small wave of troops in a new White House strategy that is expected to put more than 20,000 additional U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq and likely require new call-ups of the National Guard.

The president is expected to deliver his announcement about the increase of troops, a plan that has already been met with stiff criticism from many members of Congress, in a speech tonight from the White House.

The arrival of additional forces in Iraq comes a day after leading Democrats said they would back legislation that would block funding to pay for the additional military forces.

Split Troops to Secure City

Commanders say there is more to this plan than boots on ground -- it's also how they'll be used.

The idea is for the U.S. and Iraqi forces to become a more integral part of Baghdad neighborhoods like Dora, which was secured in August, 2006 only to see violence spike when U.S. forces left.

Under the new plan, the city of Baghdad will be divided into nine separate sections at the request of Iraqis who want one Army and police battalion devoted to section.

The additional U.S. troops being sent to Baghdad will be divided among those nine sections of the city, nearly doubling U.S. combat power in the region.

In a switch from the current course of action, these U.S. forces will be housed in the very neighborhoods they patrol. Military planners tell ABC News there will eventually be about 30 mini-bases, called joint security stations, scattered around Baghdad housing both U.S. and Iraqi troops.

'Old Way Is Failing'

Commanders believe the new approach will make U.S. forces better positioned to combat sectarian violence, but they acknowledge the new approach is riskier and will likely mean more U.S. casualties in the short-run.

In al-Anbar province, an additional 4,000 Marines will be focused on fighting al Qaeda to try to take advantage of what U.S. commanders say is a new willingness of some Sunni tribal leaders to cooperate in the fight against the organization.

The increase in U.S. forces will be completed within 90 to 120 days, but U.S. officials cannot be sustained without leaning heavily on the National Guard.

ABC News has also learned National Guard troops who have seen combat in Iraq and Afghanistan will likely be getting some unwelcome news: They may have to go back to Iraq later this year. National Guard combat teams would be sent to Iraq as the next wave of the surge, unless the first wave succeeds in reducing violence.

Commanders here caution it will take several months to fully implement the plan and maybe even longer to see results. As one senior military official here said today, "we don't know if this will work, but we do know the old way was failing."

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