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Bush's Iraq plan to include more troops: senator
Reuters ^ | Steve Holland and Susan Cornwell

Posted on 01/08/2007 4:29:00 PM PST by TexKat

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush told U.S. lawmakers on Monday he has decided to send about 20,000 more troops to Iraq in a plan to be announced on Wednesday that Democrats denounced as an escalation of the war.

The White House said Bush would address Americans on his long-delayed new Iraq plan on Wednesday at 9 p.m. EST (0200 GMT) .

Oregon Republican Sen. Gordon Smith (news, bio, voting record), who a month ago said he could no longer support the war, was among senators who attended a White House meeting to discuss the president's emerging strategy for Iraq.

"It was clear to me that a decision has been made for a surge of, I suppose, 20,000 additional troops," Smith told reporters in a conference call after the meeting.

Smith said Bush told him and several other senators that the plan for the additional troops had originated with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Maliki had made commitments that the Iraqi government and military would take steps to strengthen security in exchange for more U.S. troops, Smith said.

Seeking to salvage the U.S. mission in an unpopular war that has lasted nearly four years, Bush's new plan is also expected to include setting "benchmarks" for the Iraqi government to meet aimed at easing sectarian violence and stabilizing the country.

It is also expected to contain a jobs program likely to cost upwards of $1 billion with the goal of putting Iraqis back to work.

His plan seemed to be building on what the Bush administration has already sought to do in Iraq rather than a dramatic shift in course, including a pullback of U.S. forces, recommended by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group last month.

Bush could be setting up a collision course with the new Democratic leadership in Congress, which says sending more troops to Iraq is an escalation and that it is time to start bringing forces home.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi (news, bio, voting record), a California Democrat, said, "Democrats will not cut off funding for our troops" but would raise tough questions.

"We must know what the ground truth is in Iraq before we lose any more lives, cost any more money -- have a cost to our budget, our reputation," she said.

Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy (news, bio, voting record) questioned whether Congress would support funding for a troop increase.

"Any request for additional troops is going to have to be accompanied by a very, very strong justification," he said.

Soon after Bush's speech, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to go to the Middle East to try to promote stability in Iraq and Israeli-Palestinian peace -- an area critics believe the administration has neglected.

Bush will try to sell his plan in a visit on Thursday to a military base at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Underlining the challenge facing Bush and Iraq's U.S.-backed government, gunmen on Monday ambushed a bus carrying workers to Baghdad airport in the latest occurrence of sectarian violence that is killing hundreds of Iraqis a week.

A hospital source said 15 bodies and 15 wounded people had been brought to the hospital after the attack in the Sunni Arab neighborhood of Amriya in western Baghdad. Police and an Interior Ministry source said four were killed and nine wounded.

The attack came two days after Maliki announced a major security plan for Baghdad, vowing to crush illegal armed groups "regardless of sect or politics" -- suggesting he may be ready to tackle militias loyal to his fellow Shi'ites, as demanded by Washington and the once dominant Sunni minority.

U.S. officials say the "benchmarks" to be outlined by Bush on Wednesday are aimed at prompting Maliki's government to act to bring the warring groups into a political reconciliation.

TROOP INCREASE HAS BACKERS

While even some Republicans were skeptical, a troop increase had some backers in Congress. South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (news, bio, voting record) and the self-styled "independent Democrat" Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut urged Bush to send more troops.

"For far too long we have not had enough troops in Iraq to provide security," they wrote in a letter to Bush.

Without saying what Bush will announce, White House spokesman Tony Snow gave no sign that the president was being swayed by the Democratic opposition, saying his plan is "designed to lead to victory in Iraq."

Bush has already dismissed many of the main recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, whose report last month called for a pullback of most combat forces by early 2008 and direct talks with Iran and Syria.

In the latest move in a shake-up of his Iraq team ahead of Wednesday's announcement, the White House said Bush would nominate the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, to represent Washington at the United Nations and replace him with Ryan Crocker, currently U.S. ambassador to Pakistan.

(Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell, Matt Spetalnick and Thomas Ferraro in Washington; Aseel Kami in Baghdad)


TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; Front Page News; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS:
Bush to visit Fort Benning Thursday

The Associated Press - WASHINGTON

President Bush is planning to reach out to U.S. Army troops at Fort Benning Thursday after giving a speech Wednesday night in which he is expected to announce a plan to send more soldiers to Iraq.

Bush is expected to visit the Georgia base near Columbus Thursday afternoon, officials said. White House Press Secretary Tony Snow would say only that Bush would visit with troops and make public remarks.

Fort Benning is a major Army infantry training base, typically home to some 33,000 soldiers.

A brigade of about 5,000 soldiers and support personnel from the base is slated to ship off to Iraq in late spring, a spokeswoman said.

In his 9 p.m. speech Wednesday, the president is expected to announce a new approach to the war, including sending up to 20,000 additional troops.

1 posted on 01/08/2007 4:29:02 PM PST by TexKat
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To: TexKat

"Oregon Republican Sen. Gordon Smith (news, bio, voting record), who a month ago said he could no longer support the war, was among senators who attended a White House meeting to discuss the president's emerging strategy for Iraq."

At the end of this evening's "Hardball" program Chris Matthews said he received an email from someone on the Hill who said Gordon would not support a surge of troops for Iraq.


2 posted on 01/08/2007 4:33:48 PM PST by leadpenny
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To: leadpenny
At the end of this evening's "Hardball" program Chris Matthews said he received an email from someone on the Hill who said Gordon would not support a surge of troops for Iraq.

I think that he in no way could at this point (after the speech he gave on the floor of the house a few weeks ago).

3 posted on 01/08/2007 4:39:35 PM PST by TexKat (Just because you did not see it or read it, that does not mean it did or did not happen.)
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To: TexKat

Rightfully so, I believe the President is concerned about other Republican dissenters. Once the critters start getting feedback from constituents after tomorrow night's speech, we'll know.


4 posted on 01/08/2007 4:46:01 PM PST by leadpenny
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To: leadpenny
Good for President Bush. Muqtada Al Sad'r and his Al Madhi Army is the target. Go get 'em boys!
5 posted on 01/08/2007 5:33:32 PM PST by Candor7 (The hope of the West disappears into liberal flatulance, and who wants to be a smart feller?)
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To: leadpenny

And I happened to put Obermayer on for 5 seconds, and his Iraq surge coverage led with Senator Smith. Isn't it interesting that every liberal "news" source simultaneously decided to focus on this one senator? I had never heard of Senator Smith before. Notably, they are not covering John McCain anymore.


6 posted on 01/08/2007 5:57:20 PM PST by Williams
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To: TexKat

How far have we sunk that the President sending 20K troops somewhere is news. 200K, news, 20K not news.


7 posted on 01/08/2007 6:32:09 PM PST by kerryusama04 (Isa 8:20, Eze 22:26)
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To: Williams

lol I know- we've had plenty of Senators express their support but it gets nary a mention in the press- but when one obscure official comes out negatively- it'll be front page news for a week or so. McCain and Lieberman just got done with their fact finding mission from Iraq and have said they both agree that we absolutely can't give up on Iraq right in the middle- but haven't heard much on the news today about it. They were too busy airing the negative comments on the war.

The following link does not relate to this thread http://sacredscoop.com


8 posted on 01/08/2007 7:19:42 PM PST by CottShop
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