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Bush wants more troops to rectify Iraq ‘mistake’

Washington, Jan. 10 (AP): President George W. Bush will tell the US tonight he will send more than 20,000 additional forces to Iraq, acknowledging that it was a mistake earlier not to have more American and Iraqi troops fighting the war.

Seeking support for a retooled strategy to win support for the unpopular war, the President will acknowledge that the rules of engagement were flawed because certain neighbourhoods in Baghdad were put off limits by the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, White House counsellor Dan Bartlett said.

“Military operations sometimes were handcuffed by political interference by the Iraqi leadership.”

Bartlett also said the Iraqis had failed to deliver on earlier pledges to commit more of their troops. “They (the Iraqis) are going to have more boots on the ground,” he said. “They’re going to be the ones doing the knocking on the door.”

Maliki has assured Bush that “this is going to be an operation in Baghdad that will make no difference between Shia, Sunni or other types of illegal militia or illegal activity,” Bartlett said.

Even before Bush speaks, Democrats were laying plans to register their opposition to the troop build-up.

House of Representatives’ leader Nancy Pelosi pledged to hold a vote on the increase, trying to isolate Bush on his handling of the war.

Democratic leaders in the Senate, saying they hoped to win some Republican support, said they planned to have their chamber debate a symbolic measure next week also expressing opposition to troop increases.

The Democratic congressional election victory in November showed “American voters expect us to help get us out of Iraq”, Senator Joseph Biden, a 2008 presidential hopeful and chairman of the foreign relations committee, said as his panel heard independent experts on Iraq.

In the latest sign of Republican unease on the war, Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, the party’s top leader on the foreign relations panel, said: “The President and his team need to explain what objectives we are trying to achieve if forces are expanded, where and how they will be used,” and how long additional troops may be needed.

For a little more than 20 minutes tonight, Bush is to explain why a gradual build-up of about 20,000 additional US troops, along with other steps expected to include pumping $1 billion into Iraq’s economy, is the answer for a more than three-and-a-half-year-old war that has only gotten deadlier with no end in sight.

The administration plans to expand an existing programme to decentralise reconstruction efforts. Ten units known as Provincial Reconstruction Teams will be expanded to 19, with the additional units based in Baghdad and in Anbar province, seats of most of the worst violence.

The teams, under state department control, will administer some of the economic aid, including an effort to provide small loans to start or expand businesses.

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