In the face of eroding support among Republican lawmakers, Congress today begins considering several measures that would force President Bush to change the direction of the Iraq War.
One bill would require that deployment schedules be revised to allow troops to spend as much time at home as they do in Iraq. Another measure calls for troop withdrawal to begin within 120 days and be completed by April of 2008.
The president is sending his national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, to Capitol Hill today to try to head off the legislation and quell growing unrest among GOP lawmakers about the war.
And the president will meet privately with several legislators at the White House.
The actions come as the White House finalizes an interim progress report on Iraq that will conclude that the Iraqi government has made little progress in meeting reform goals already laid down by Congress. Bush has urged Congress to wait until the final report is completed in September before taking any action.
Hadley will meet with at least 20 GOP senators; many are openly critical of continuing the status quo in Iraq.
At least 10 Republicans in recent weeks have said the United States should start reducing the military's role in Iraq, with the latest challenge to the president's Iraq strategy coming Tuesday from Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C.
"Simply put, our troops have been doing a great job, but the Iraqi government has not," Dole said in a written statement. "Our commitment in Iraq is not indefinite, nor should the Iraqi government perceive it to be. It is my firm hope and belief that we can start bringing our troops home in 2008."
Democrats continue to pressure the president. "It is time to begin ending this war," said Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.
Even if Bush suddenly was forced to change his position, some said the speedy pullout might not be realistic.
"If you want to do it correctly, it will take a minimum of 10 [months] or 12 months," former Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb told ABC News.
Korb said it could be even longer than that because of the huge numbers of troops and treacherous terrain.
"You want [to] get your people out but you also have equipment," Korb said, "and you've got to decide what equipment you will leave for the Iraqis. What equipment you want to take home."
Moving too slowly could mean missing a window of opportunity while the British are still in Basra and could help with a southern exit, Korb said.
But a withdrawal means many things to many people. Some like Clinton would leave substantial combat and support troops. Others argue for a complete pullout. Either way, experts agree there are huge risks to rushing the process.
"The risk would be that you would end up having more casualties than you need because you might have to have people fight their way out," Korb said.
But Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., argued the real risk was withdrawing at all. Tuesday, he dramatically invoked the Vietnam pullout.
"But many who supported that withdrawal in the name of human rights did not foresee the calamity that followed," McCain said.
On "Good Morning America" today, retired Maj. Gen. John Batiste said the country could not sustain the current force it had in Iraq. He added success was not based strictly on the military, but politics, too.
"It will require an enormous amount of diplomatic work from countries in [the] region and worldwide," he said. "The sad, unvarnished truth of the matter is that our all-volunteer force simply can't contain someone else's civil war. Our biggest threat in Iraq doesn't come from al Qaeda — it comes from being stuck in the middle of a civil war."
Batiste also said it would not suit U.S. interest if Iraq was dominated by another country in the region.
Batiste led the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq until 2005, when he grew disillusioned with the war and retired. He said the country needed a better plan for withdrawal than it had when it entered the war.
"This has to be done in a very disciplined way," Batiste said.
While he said a preponderance of troops needed to withdraw because the war had destroyed the all-volunteer military force, Batiste said some should remain to secure and protect.
"If there are extremist Iraqis operating, we would certainly go after them," he said, "but we don't need to leave 160,000 troops in Iraq."