A State Department official leaked word this week that President Bush is considering sending “no more than 15,000 to 20,000 U.S. troops” to Iraq. “Instead of a surge, it is a bump,” the official said.
This claim was bolstered last night by CBS’s David Martin, who reported that military commanders have told Bush they are prepared to execute a troop escalation of just 9,000 soldiers and Marines into Iraq, “with another 10,000 on alert in Kuwait and the U.S.”
The Washington Post reports today that “deep divisions remain between the White House on one side and the Joint Chiefs and congressional leaders on the other about whether a surge of up to 20,000 troops will turn around the deteriorating situation.” The Post also provides more context about an administration official’s recent claim that the escalation is “more of a political decision than a military one.“:
The U.S. military is increasingly resigned to the probability that Bush will deploy a relatively small number of additional troops — between one and five brigades — in part because he has few other dramatic options available to signal U.S. determination in Iraq, officials said. But the Joint Chiefs have not given up making the case that the potential dangers outweigh the benefits for several reasons, officials said.
Escalation backers have already begun distancing themselves from this plan. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said yesterday that not sending enough troops would be “worse than doing nothing.”
REPORTER: The president is expected to give his speech on a new way forward in Iraq next week. CBS’s David Martin has learned military commanders told the President they could execute a ‘troop surge’ of 9,000 soldiers and Marines into Iraq, with another 10,000 on alert in Kuwait and the U.S. Two army brigades — about 7,500 troops — would go into Baghdad in an effort to control the violence, clearing neighborhoods and staying long enough for reconstruction projects to take effect. 1,500 Marines would go to the western province of al-Anbar, heartland of the Sunni insurgency. This, even though the Commandant of the Marine Corps was quoted as saying he did not see a need for more battalions. But aides say the President still hasn’t decided for sure on a plan.
TONY SNOW (CLIP): The President understands this is important and needs to be done right.
ANCHOR: And details for the President’s proposal on Iraq are still being hammered out, but Pentagon officials are sure the President will order more troops to Iraq.