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Monday, November 20, 2006

Pentagon panels sees three options in Iraq

WASHINGTON: A Pentagon panel has outlined three basic options for improving the situation in Iraq -- pull out, send more U.S. troops or reduce the size of the force but stay longer, The Washington Post reported on Monday.

The group was likely to recommend a combination of a small short-term increase of U.S. troops and long-term training for Iraqi forces, the newspaper reported, citing senior defence officials.

The options have been dubbed "Go Home," "Go Big" and "Go Longer" by insiders.

Sources who have been briefed on the review, led by Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the group had concluded there were not enough U.S. forces to "Go Big," sending in thousands more troops, the Post said.

"Go Home," the quick pullout option, was rejected as likely to push Iraq directly into a full-blown civil war, the Post said.

The Pentagon group devised a hybrid plan, "Go Long," which calls for cutting the U.S. combat presence combined with a long-term expansion of the training and advising of Iraqi forces, the newspaper said.

The officials said that under the mixture of options, the U.S. presence in Iraq would be boosted by 20,000 to 30,000 for a short period, the newspaper said. Currently there are around 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

Democrats, who won control of the U.S. Congress this month, have vowed to push for a withdrawal from Iraq in the next few months.

President George W. Bush has insisted U.S. troops would not leave until Iraqis can take over security and has repeatedly rejected setting a timetable for withdrawal. However, the White House has said that Bush is open to new ideas.

In addition to the Pentagon, other U.S. national security agencies will review Iraq strategy. The bipartisan Iraq Study Group is considering alternative approaches as well.

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