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Gates to brief Bush on Iraq recommendations

  • Story Highlights
  • Defense chief Robert Gates to brief president on Iraq, Afghanistan
  • Recommendations were made by Gen. David Petraeus
  • It is expected that U.S. will cut troop levels in Iraq, increase presence in Afghanistan
  • NEW: U.S. to hand over some control of civilian patrol program
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From Barbara Starr
CNN Pentagon Correspondent
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Defense Secretary Robert Gates is expected to present proposals to cut U.S. troop levels in Iraq to President Bush, along with proposals for beefing up American forces in Afghanistan, according to senior military officials.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates will meet with the president ahead of appearing before a House panel.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates will meet with the president ahead of appearing before a House panel.

The Iraq recommendations, to be given to Bush in the coming week, come from Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Baghdad. Petraeus delivered them to the Pentagon last week.

Petraeus is widely expected to recommend that the number of U.S. troops in Iraq be drawn down over the next six to eight months -- a move that would allow more American units to head to Afghanistan, where U.S. and NATO casualties have run higher than those in Iraq in recent weeks.

Gates is expected to discuss the plans with Bush ahead of his scheduled appearance before the House Armed Services Committee on September 10.

Among the factors Petraeus considered were the sharp reduction in Iraq's sectarian and insurgent warfare over the past year; the remaining capabilities of al Qaeda in Iraq and Shiite Muslim militias backed by Iran; and the political strength of Iraq's government and security forces, according to a U.S. military official close to the process.

The official said pressure to send more troops to Afghanistan would not be a deciding factor in the final recommendations.

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The final recommendations are expected to be complete before Petraeus leaves Iraq on September 16 to take charge of U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East and central Asia.

A sign of the improving situation in Iraq was Monday's handover of Anbar province to Iraqi government control. As a result, the Marines have recommended troop cuts in that province, once the heart of the Sunni Arab insurgency, the service's commandant said last week.

"We do believe that security conditions are such that, even with reduced force, that we can keep them at a very low level," Gen. James Conway said last week. He said Iraqis assured the Marines that the country can take over the security if the service's 25,000-strong force there is drawn down.

"They're pretty confident that at least they can manage the internal security aspects of what has to take place now," said Conway, who has pushed for more Marines to be sent to Afghanistan.

In another development, the U.S. military will hand over responsibility for part of the citizen patrol program -- known as Sons of Iraq -- to the Iraqi government beginning October 1, according to a senior U.S. military official in Baghdad.

The United States will transfer the management and payment authority to the Iraqi government for about 54,000 Sons of Iraq that operate in and around Baghdad as a "test," according to the official.

The test will allow the United States to see how the Iraqis do managing the group, and will not overwhelm the Iraqi government with taking on control of all 100,000 members of the group at once, the official said.

The official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter, could not say when a transfer of authority would happen for other SOI groups around Iraq.

Meanwhile, fatal bombings shattered a period of relative calm in the Iraqi capital Tuesday at the start of Ramadan, Islam's holiest month.

A roadside bomb detonated near al-Kindi Hospital in eastern Baghdad, killing two civilians and wounding 13 others, including several policemen, an interior ministry official said.

Another roadside bomb exploded in western Baghdad's al-Harthiya neighborhood, killing two civilians and wounding 10, the official said.

Outside the capital city, a suicide truck bomber targeted an Iraqi army checkpoint in the northern city of Mosul, killing seven civilians and wounding seven others, the official said.

The violence coincides with Ramadan, which began Tuesday for Shia Muslims in Iraq. Sunni Muslims in the country began observing the month Monday.

The exact start of Ramadan -- Islam's ninth month -- depends on the sighting of the new moon. Muslims are required to abstain from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk.

The month of fasting ends with Eid al-Fitr, three days of feasts and celebrations.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh and Mike Mount contributed to this report.

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