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Pentagon, Petraeus To 'Differ Substantially' On Iraq

We’ve been hearing more and more lately about internal divisions among top U.S. military officials over Iraq policy. The Joint Chiefs of Staff want

We’ve been hearing more and more lately about internal divisions among top U.S. military officials over Iraq policy. The Joint Chiefs of Staff want troop numbers cut in half over the next year, whereas Petraeus sees a massive force staying in Iraq indefinitely. Adm. William J. Fallon, chief of the U.S. Central Command and Petraeus’ superior, began developing plans to redefine the U.S. mission and radically draw down troops just over a week ago.

Indeed, McClatchy reported two weeks ago, “In a sign that top commanders are divided over what course to pursue in Iraq, the Pentagon said Wednesday that it won’t make a single, unified recommendation to President Bush during next month’s strategy assessment, but instead will allow top commanders to make individual presentations.”

Apparently, at least one major contingent at the Defense Department is planning to push back against Petraeus’ conclusions — and recommend a very different course.

NEWSWEEK has learned that a separate internal report being prepared by a Pentagon working group will “differ substantially” from Petraeus’s recommendations, according to an official who is privy to the ongoing discussions but would speak about them only on condition of anonymity. An early version of the report, which is currently being drafted and is expected to be completed by the beginning of next year, will “recommend a very rapid reduction in American forces: as much as two-thirds of the existing force very quickly, while keeping the remainder there.”

Kevin Drum takes a closer look.

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