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Bush attacked over 'rolling surge' of 20,000 more troops for Iraq

London Telegraph | January 8, 2007
Toby Harnden and Damien McElroy

President George W Bush is preparing to announce a "rolling surge" of 20,000 troops in Iraq that leading hawks believe would waste lives and fail to stave off ignominious defeat for America.

Mr Bush, under pressure from a resurgent Democratic party, shell-shocked Republicans still reeling from their mid-term elections defeat, and military commanders worried about overstretch, is expected to water down the troop surge he decided to adopt only last month.

The strategy - tentatively titled "A New Way Forward" and due to be announced by the President on Wednesday - is understood to centre on an extra five US combat brigades being sent to Baghdad.

Mr Bush's advisers are divided over the wisdom of rejecting the recommendations of the independent Iraq Study Group and some privately admit any surge strategy might be doomed to failure. Several have grave doubts about the willingness or ability of Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, to deliver on his promises.

Mr Maliki has pledged to move an extra three Iraqi brigades of 1,200 soldiers each to Baghdad to augment the 20,000 new American troops. Mr Bush's new strategy is also likely to include a £500 million reconstruction package.

Some White House advisers have argued that sending in the five brigades should be staged and contingent on specific Iraqi actions. Mr Bush is likely to be vague about the duration of the surge but officials have said that it will last a maximum of six months.

Sending an additional American 20,000 troops in addition to the 132,000 already in Iraq would set Mr Bush on a collision course with the new Democratic leaders of Congress, who demand a phased withdrawal. Five more American troops died in Iraq at the weekend.

Nancy Pelosi, the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, invoked the spectre of Iraq as Mr Bush's Vietnam yesterday by repeatedly using the word "escalation" to describe his surge strategy.

She told CBS News: "The President wants to escalate the war where his generals are telling him that the additional troops will not be effective... escalation of the war is opposed by the Democrats."

Mr Bush's likely plan would also dismay the main proponents of a surge, who have argued that it needs to involve seven combat brigades or 28,000 troops sent in simultaneously and used to mount an offensive that would continue for more than a year.

Senator John McCain said last week: "The worst of all worlds would be a small, short surge of US forces. We tried small surges in the past and they've been ineffective because our commanders lacked the forces necessary to hold territory after it was cleared."

He condemned a watered-down surge as a recipe for "more needless loss of American lives" while "surging for three to six months or any other fixed timeline would signal to the insurgents and militias that they can merely wait us out".

Mr McCain, a front runner to become the Republican presidential candidate next year, was endorsing a report by the American Enterprise Institute that has been a main impetus behind Mr Bush's adoption of a surge strategy.

But Frederick Kagan and Gen Jack Keane, a former vice-chief of the US Army, who wrote the report, have called for two brigades to be sent to Anbar province as well as five to Baghdad and for this new strength to be maintained for at least 18 months.

"The answer is... five brigades in to Baghdad and two in to Anbar," Mr Kagan said at an appearance with Mr McCain and Senator Joe Lieberman, a Democratic hawk, at AEI on Friday. "We're going to be very uncomfortable with any force level below that. We're also very uncomfortable with the prospect of beginning operations in a rolling fashion, just sort of throwing forces into the fray as they become available."

Meanwhile, Iraq's government was reported to be close to finalising new legislation governing the oil industry in an attempt to capitalise on hopes of a reduction in violence. Anti-war activists claimed that the bill would grant an unusually high proportion of profits - 75 per cent after development costs - to foreign oil companies.

Such provisions, however, reflect the extreme risks of investing in a war zone.

 

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