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Pentagon May Suggest Short-Term Buildup Leading to Iraq Exit

The Pentagon official said this short-term boost could be achieved through three steps: extending the tours of duty of some units already in Iraq, sending other units there earlier than planned and activating some Army Reserve units.

The group concluded that such a step might be necessary because it is concerned that the continuing violence is undercutting the Iraqi government's credibility. "Folks increasingly realize that if violence can't be contained, the spiral downward will continue, the national government will lose the effectiveness it has . . . . and then all bets will be off," the official said.

Also, it would take months to prepare and implement the expansion of the program to train and advise Iraqi forces, he noted. The military would have to find those additional advisers, prepare them for the deployment, get infrastructure in place to house and feed them, order and ship equipment for them to use, and recruit additional Iraqis for them to train.

"The 'Go Long' approach is one that can work if there is sufficient strategic patience, resources appropriated and [if] leadership executes effectively," a military intelligence official said.

Another potential obstacle to the "Go Long" option is that it runs counter to the impulse of many congressional Democrats to find a way to get out of Iraq quickly. Planners envision taking five to 10 more years to create a stable and competent Iraqi army. Because it wouldn't lead to a swift exit, some Democrats could criticize this option as a disguised version of "staying the course."

On the other hand, the hybrid version of "Go Long" may be remarkably close to the recommendation that the Iraq Study Group, led by former secretary of state James A. Baker III and former representative Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.). That group's findings, expected to be issued next month, are said to focus on changing the emphasis of U.S. military operations from combating the insurgency to training Iraqis, and also to find ways to increase security in Baghdad and bring neighboring countries into talks about stabilizing Iraq.

The Pentagon group has given a thumbs-down to what it considered variants of withdrawal, such as pulling U.S. units out of the cities and keeping them in isolated enclaves, where they would not interact with the Iraqi population but would be available to combat major insurgent offensives and also to protect the government against coups.

Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top U.S. military commander for the Middle East, expressed a similar view last week when he told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he thinks that immediate troop withdrawals would increase the violence in Iraq.

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