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Bush Says US Needs to Boost Size of Army, Marines (Update6)
Bloomberg - 58 minutes ago
By Roger Runningen and Brendan Murray. Dec. 20 (Bloomberg) -- President George W. Bush said he has asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates to study ways to increase the size of the US Army and the Marine Corps ...
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Bush promises a new strategy for Iraq
December 21, 2006 - 6:19AM
US President George W Bush has pledged "a new way forward" in Iraq and said he would only consider boosting US troop numbers there if he was sure it would help to curb rampant sectarian violence.
In Baghdad, the Interior Ministry said police found 76 bodies in different districts of the capital, all with gunshot wounds and many with signs of torture.
The police typically report finding about 50 bodies a day.
The US military also reported the deaths of two US soldiers killed in two separate roadside bombings in Baghdad.
The new US defence secretary, Robert Gates, making a first trip to Iraq to talk to US commanders and Iraqi officials, said commanders were concerned that a surge in US forces might delay the time when Iraqis can take control.
"We are looking at all options and that includes increasing more troops," Bush told a news conference in Washington.
"I have not made up my mind.
"There has to be a specific mission that can be accomplished with more troops before I agree on that strategy."
Bush is expected to announce a new US strategy early in the new year for the unpopular war, which has so far claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 US soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqis since the US invasion in 2003.
"My administration will work with Republicans and Democrats to fashion a new way forward that can succeed in Iraq," he said.
"We can ask more of our Iraqi partners and we will," he added.
Critics of Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki accuse him of doing little to break the cycle of revenge killings between majority Shi'ites and minority Sunnis.
Gates, accompanied by General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived in Baghdad for a two-day visit to meet US commanders and Iraqi leaders and see for himself the war he has said America is not winning.
He said commanders had expressed concern that a surge in US forces might delay the time when Iraqis can assume control for security. He said he wanted to speak with Iraq's prime minister before making a judgment.
"I think before I draw any conclusions on that I want to talk to the prime minister and others in the Iraqi government. It's clearly a consideration. The commanders here have expressed a concern about that."
The former CIA director's visit follows a Pentagon report that said violence was at an all-time high and that the Mehdi Army militia of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al Sadr had overtaken Sunni Islamist al-Qaeda as the biggest threat to peace in Iraq.
Bush, who is facing mounting pressure to reduce America's military commitment in Iraq, predicted eventual victory and said the United States would not be "run out" of the Middle East by the Iraq crisis.
"Failure in Iraq will condemn a generation of young Americans to permanent threat from overseas. Therefore, we will succeed in Iraq."
Gates, who replaced Donald Rumsfeld, said on Monday failure in Iraq "would be a calamity that would haunt our nation, impair our credibility and endanger Americans for decades to come".
More than 3-1/2 years after the invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, Iraq is gripped by soaring violence between majority Shi'ites and once-dominant Sunnis.
Shortly before Gates arrived, a suicide car bomber rammed his vehicle into a police checkpoint near Baghdad University, killing 11 people and wounding 31, security sources said.
South of the capital, US-led troops handed over command of Najaf province, home to Iraq's Shi'ite clerical establishment, to Iraqi security forces under a plan to gradually transfer security and allow the withdrawal of 130,000 American troops.
© 2006 Reuters, Click for Restrictions
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