Bush seeks expanded military, new focus on Iran in 2007

Friday, January 12, 2007

WASHINGTON The Bush administration plans to target Iran operations in Iraq and to significantly increase the U.S. military overall to facilitate missions in Iraq and other insurgency hotspots.

The Defense Department has drafted plans for an increase of 92,000 ground troops by 2012. Officials said the Pentagon has determined that such a move would enable any long-term military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"The emphasis will be on increasing combat capability," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said.

Gates said the U.S. Army would be increased by 65,000 soldiers and the Marine Corps by 27,000. He said this would bring the total number of army troops to 547,000 and 202,000 Marines.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military has launched an offensive against Iranian agents in Iraq.

Officials said the U.S.-led coalition captured at least six Iranian agents on Thursday in Irbil. They said U.S. troops, backed by attack helicopters, raided the Iranian consulate in the northern Kurdish-populated city and confiscated computers and documents.

"There are reports that six people were detained, but now we want clarification from the American side and from the Iranian side about these people and what they were doing there and whether they were employees," Iraqi government spokesman Ali Al Dabbagh said.

Officials said the U.S.-led raid was part of a new policy by the Bush administration to target the Iranian intelligence presence in Iraq. They said Iran has significantly increased its aid to Shi'ite and Sunni militias in an attempt to expel the coalition from Iraq.

The Pentagon plan was meant to support President George Bush's decision to send another 21,500 troops to Iraq, officials said. They said such a move required a permanent increase in the size of the army and Marines. The army has encountered difficulties in meeting recruiting goals over the last three years.

Officials said Bush's decision to increase troops in Iraq marked a rejection of the Iraq Study Group. They said the policy reflected recommendations by National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley in late 2006, who sent a memorandum that called for an aggressive campaign against the insurgency based on increasing participation of Iraq.

At a news conference on Thursday, Gates did not rule out a long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq. The defense secretary said it was unclear how long the additional forces would serve in that Arab state.

"It's viewed as a temporary surge, but I think no one has a really clear idea of how long that might be," Gates said.

"We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria," President George Bush said in an address as the raid was being conducted in Irbil. "And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq."

Officials said the Iranian consulate, established in 2006, was handed over to Kurdish forces by the U.S. troops. For its part, the U.S. military said troops detained six people in Irbil, but denied that the Iranian consulate was targeted.

On Dec. 27, U.S. troops captured four suspected Iranian intelligence agents in Baghdad and seized a large amount of documents. The documents were said to have contained details of Iran's aid to Sunni and Shi'ite militias in Iraq.

Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the U.S. military would seek and destroy networks from Iran and Syria that provide weapons and funding to Iraq. But Pace said U.S. troops would not enter Iran.

"We can take care of the security for our troops by doing the business we need to do inside of Iraq," Pace said.

Copyright 2007 East West Services, Inc.

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