Tuesday, January 09, 2007

First surge to go to Iraq by month’s end

Associated Press

WASHINGTON— The first of up to 20,000 additional U.S. troops will move into Iraq by month’s end under President Bush’s new war plan, a senior defense official said Tuesday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pledged to hold a vote on the increase, opposed by many Democrats.

Details of a gradual military buildup emerged a day before Bush’s planned speech to the nation, in which he also will propose a bit over $1 billion to shore up the country’s battered economy and create jobs, said a second U.S. official.

Bush is expected to urge friendly Mideast countries to increase their aid to Iraq but will ignore the recommendation of the bipartisan Iraq Study group that he include Syria and Iran in an effort to staunch Iraqi bloodshed nearly four years after the U.S. invasion, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the plan has not yet been announced.

Bush is expected to link the troop increase to promised steps by the Iraqi government to build up its own military, ease the country’s murderous sectarian tensions, increase reconstruction and enact a plan to distribute oil revenues among the country’s religious sects.

Moving first into Iraq would be the 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, which is in Kuwait and poised to move quickly into the country, the defense official said.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he expects Bush to announce that up to 20,000 additional troops will be sent to Iraq but not to say how long the extra forces will be there.