WASHINGTON (AP) – The first of up to 20,000 additional U.S. troops will move into Iraq by the end of the month under President Bush’s new war plan, a senior defense official said yesterday. Congressional Democrats scrambled for the best way to challenge an increase they said would simply cause more bloodshed.

Details of a gradual military buildup emerged a day before Bush’s planned speech to the nation, in which he is also expected to propose increased economic aid to shore up the shattered country after nearly four years of bloodshed.

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.

The president spent time yesterday meeting with lawmakers, practicing his speech and briefing key foreign allies, including calls to the leaders of Britain, Australia and Denmark.

Under Bush’s plan, thousands of troops will be alerted that they may be needed in Iraq _ including units already there whose service would be extended, or others that could be sent earlier than initially scheduled, said the official, who requested anonymity because the plans have not yet been announced.

Moving first into Iraq would be the 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, which is now in Kuwait and poised to head quickly into the country, the defense official said. The brigade, which numbers about 3,500, is based at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Other units, including Marine brigades in western Iraq, could be asked to extend their deployment. And the military buildup is also likely to include moving the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis into the Persian Gulf region, as a show of force and a warning to Iran and Syria.

There are already about 132,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

According to the defense official, Bush also will discuss the need to address how often the Pentagon can tap the National Guard and Reserves, although he may provide few details. And Bush will again endorse the need to increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps.

The speech looms as a key one for Bush, who is beginning the final two years of his presidency waging a war that has scant public support and whose own popularity has plummeted as well.

The public has heard several previous campaigns by Bush to defend his Iraq policies and show that he is changing with changing circumstances, but conditions in the country have not improved.

Since the war’s start in March 2003, there have been at least seven public relations offensives by Bush on the war, with some of these speech series timed to milestone events and others to dips in polls.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.