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Iraq Transition

Official: Bush plans 20,000 more troops for Iraq

Story Highlights

• Control of all provinces in Iraq to be turned over by November, source says
• First troops could be deployed by end of January
• Iraqi prime minister promises to take on Shiite militias, official says
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Wednesday will announce a plan to send about 20,000 more troops to Iraq in an effort to pacify Baghdad, a U.S. official said Tuesday.

The official said Bush intends to hand control of the country to Iraqi forces by November.

Most of the additional troops will be deployed in Baghdad, where American and Iraqi troops fought a 10-hour street battle with insurgents on Tuesday. (Watch exclusive footage of the battle Video)

But about 4,000 would be deployed to restive Anbar province, the heart of the Sunni Arab insurgency, the official said.

The first troops in the new wave could be a brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division that is already in Kuwait, Pentagon sources said.

The official cautioned that the November date for Iraq control does not mean U.S. troops would withdraw by then.

Sources familiar with the White House deliberations also said that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had promised Bush that he would redeploy a large number of Iraqi troops from other parts of the country to help secure Baghdad. Those Iraqi troops' main goal would be to neutralize Shiite militias loyal to influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Al-Maliki has been reluctant to move against the militias until now because al-Sadr's political support has been crucial to al-Maliki's rise to power and continuation in office.

The additional deployment would be coupled with about $1 billion in new economic aid, on top of the more than $30 billion already committed to Iraq, the White House sources said.

The first deployments would begin by the end of January, a U.S. official said.

Bush is scheduled to lay out his plan to the nation in a televised address Wednesday night.

Supporters say more troops are needed to stave off a U.S. defeat in the nearly four-year-old war, which has cost more than $400 billion and the lives of more than 3,000 U.S. troops. (Watch how the war's costs are mounting Video)

"This is a commander-in-chief who has decided not to fail in Iraq," Rep. Mike Pence, R-Indiana, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said after a meeting at the White House. "I found his arguments and his strategies persuasive."

The general public appears less convinced, as recent polls show little support for sending more troops.

Even supporters of a troop increase are unlikely to be satisfied, as some advocates have said as many as 35,000 more U.S. troops would be needed to be effective.

Members of Congress weigh in

Several U.S. senators on Tuesday voiced their opposition to sending more troops to Iraq. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, proposed a bill requiring congressional approval for any increase in troops. (Full story)

"The last thing that the American people want is to insert tens of thousands of new American troops into a civil war in Iraq, and they want the Congress to do something," Kennedy said on CNN's "The Situation Room."

He called the proposed deployment "an immense new mistake."

Democrats will hash out details Wednesday at their regular caucus meeting, said Jennifer Crider, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the caucus chairman, said Bush needed to answer some questions -- including what the additional troops will be doing, how long they will be deployed and what benchmarks for success will be set -- before he wins the support of Congress.

"If the president and the Pentagon cannot answer these critical questions about an escalation of the war in Iraq, I see no reason why the Congress or the American people should give their blessing to such an escalation," Emanuel, D-Illinois, said in a written statement.

Rep. John Murtha, D-Pennsylvania, said he is working on a proposal, first reported in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal, that would tie the president's request for billions in additional war funding to current troop readiness levels.

Under Murtha's proposal, if troop readiness levels in the United States were to fall below a certain fixed percentage level, Congress would restrict funding for more troops in Iraq. (Full story)

Murtha said his proposal is not about cutting off money for troops but about building up a "strategic reserve" in the military.

He called it "diverting funds to things needed in the United States to get troops ready. That's what I'm prepared to do."

Murtha, who now chairs the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee, plans to hold a series of hearings starting January 17.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said senators are working on a nonbinding resolution opposing more troops, and he said several Republicans are likely to support it.

"I really believe that if we can come up with a bipartisan approach to this escalation, it will do more to change the direction of that war in Iraq than any other thing that we can do," he said.

And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said Congress can't "micromanage" the war.

"I don't think it would be good at it," said McConnell, who added that he will support Bush's plan. "You can't run a war by a committee of 435 in the House and 100 in the Senate."

Most Democrats and many leading Republicans have expressed doubt about the plans, and Bush has held meetings with key lawmakers at the White House for most of the past week.

Rep. Adam Smith, D-Washington, said that Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, joined Bush at the session Smith attended on Tuesday. Smith said Bush laid out his proposal in detail, but the congressman would not disclose specifics.

He said Bush characterized the proposed troop increase as an "Iraqi plan," and said that Iraqi troops would take the lead in efforts to pacify their capital.

Smith said he is skeptical about the plan, but said he had not yet decided whether to support or oppose it.

Familiar strategy

It wouldn't be the first time Bush has boosted troop levels in Iraq to try to gain the upper hand.

Last summer the U.S. launched "Operation Together Forward" with Iraqi troops in an effort to quell the violence in Baghdad. Despite an increase of almost 10,000 U.S. troops in the capital, the violence there worsened.

A top U.S. commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, said that plan focused too much on Sunni insurgents and not enough on Shiite death squads, but said the U.S. will have a more "balanced approach" this time.


SPECIAL REPORT

• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide
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