But Bush Ups New Troop Increases
It appears the Bush-backed last ditch troop "surge" plan to improve security in Iraq, particularly in Baghdad, might really be the last roll of the dice many pundits claimed it would be :
The United States has begun planning to gradually withdraw combat soldiers from Iraq and place a greater emphasis on training if the current troop increase fails, it was reported today.
The Los Angeles Times said the fallback strategy, based partly on the US experience in El Salvador in the 1980s, was in the early planning stages.
A Pentagon official told the paper: "This part of the world has an allergy against foreign presence. You have a window of opportunity that is relatively short. Your ability to influence this with a large US force eventually gets to a point that is self-defeating."
The LA Times report came as the president, George Bush, confirmed at the weekend that he would send an extra 4,700 combat support troops and military police to Iraq in addition to the "surge" of 21,500 combat forces announced in January.
A whittling down of the US military presence would fit in with comments made to Congress by the defence secretary, Robert Gates, last month. He said that if the "surge" failed, the fallback plan would include moving troops "out of harm's way".
(US General ) Petraeus has only about six months to improve the situation, particularly to reduce the level of sectarian killing in Baghdad.
Gen Petraeus is taking a markedly different tack from the retiring commander for the Middle East, John Abizaid, who wanted to hand over responsibility for security to the Iraqis as quickly as possible and get US combat forces out by next year.
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