Pentagon recommends holding US troops levels in Iraq steady until February
Proposed February troop reduction would coincide with increase in troops sent to Afghanistan.
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The Los Angeles Times writes that, while Pentagon officials emphasize that the plan has not yet been approved by President Bush, "over the last 18 months, Bush has deferred to Petraeus, who has accepted the compromise." The White House says that Bush is considering the Pentagon's recommendation. The recommendation for a tentative troop shift comes as the pressure on US commanders in Afghanistan is increasing. The Christian Science Monitor reports that some commanders have been unusually vocal in criticizing the current focus on Iraq to the exclusion of Afghanistan.Skip to next paragraph
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Last week, Gen. James Conway, commandant of the Marine Corps, made a public plea for some of his 25,000 marines in Anbar Province in Iraq, to be redeployed home so the service can send more Marines to Afghanistan as soon as early next year. ...
General Conway was as blunt as he was politic in his public statement, essentially taking Petraeus to task for his caution in redeploying troops out of Iraq. "He's the first four-star who has openly challenged Dave Petraeus's view of Iraq," says one official close to the debate on troop levels within the government.
Gen Petraeus said Iraq was a "dramatically changed country" from when he assumed command in February 2007. He said attacks had plummeted from a daily rate of 180 in June last year to about 25 recently. He mused that "there is certainly a degree of hope that was not present 19 months ago".
Asked whether it was feasible that US combat forces could leave Baghdad by July, he said: "Conditions permitting, yeah.
"The number of attacks in Baghdad lately has been . . . probably less than five [a day] on average, and that's a city of 7m people," Gen Petraeus told the Financial Times.
Much of the credit for the improved security in Iraq has been given to the recently ended "surge" of five extra combat batallions in Iraq. But The Washington Post writes that his new book, "The War Within," Post editor Bob Woodward says that is not the case.
The book ... says that the U.S. troop "surge" of 2007, in which President Bush sent nearly 30,000 additional U.S. combat forces and support troops to Iraq, was not the primary factor behind the steep drop in violence there during the past 16 months.
Rather, Woodward reports, "groundbreaking" new covert techniques enabled U.S. military and intelligence officials to locate, target and kill insurgent leaders and key individuals in extremist groups such as al-Qaeda in Iraq.
Woodward does not disclose the code names of these covert programs or provide much detail about them, saying in the book that White House and other officials cited national security concerns in asking him to withhold specifics.
Woodward also writes that the US spied on Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki, though several senior US officials questioned whether it was worth the risk.