Saturday, August 25, 2007

Officials: Bush plans no change in Iraq; 'We all know that there will be a long-term robust troop presence that will outlast this president'

Above: A U.S. Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopter fires Hellfire missiles on 'insurgent positions' in a marsh in Diyala province last Sunday.

Despite political pressure for a change of course in Iraq, the White House hopes to keep in place its existing military strategy and troop levels there after the mid-September report from Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker, administration officials said.

Even as the administration faced a new call this week from Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), a leading ally, to begin at least a symbolic withdrawal of troops by Christmas, White House officials said privately that they are not contemplating making major shifts before early next year. They said that next month's report is likely to highlight what they see as significant improvements in security over the past year and that they expect the president to assert that now is not the time to dramatically change approaches.

One senior White House official expressed the prevailing mood, saying he does not expect a "wholesale change in plans" next month....

Another senior official, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss White House thinking more freely, said he expects the U.S. presence to return to pre-buildup levels of 15 combat brigades and about 130,000 troops a year from now, down from about 160,000. "We all know where we want to get to," this official said. "We all know that there will be a long-term robust troop presence that will outlast this president."

Read the rest at MSNBC

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