Analysts See Few Good Military Options for Iraq

If the Pentagon follows the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, up to 70,000 U.S. combat troops could be pulled out of Iraq over the next year. The military mission would shift from fighting insurgents to supporting the Iraqi military so they can fight insurgents.

Although there is little agreement over just how a phased withdrawal of U.S. forces would work, there is a virtual consensus on one issue: Fewer U.S. troops in Iraq will lead to more bloodshed.

"I think what will happen in the near term is a bloodbath," said retired Gen. Jack Keane, the acting chief of staff of the Army at the start of the war, an advisor to the Iraq Study Group and an ABC News consultant. "And while people feel a sense of hopelessness right now, that hopelessness will increase."

After three and a half years, some $380 billion and more than 2,900 American military casualties, the U.S. is still in the "options-building" phase. Everyone, it seems, is looking for a new plan.

National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley has ordered a strategy review. So has Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Peter Pace.

"The fact is, the strategy we have is not working," said Keane. "That doesn't mean we have to abandon Iraq. We have to fix that strategy and come up with something that can work."

No Consensus on Troop Levels

Keane still thinks the war can be won if it's fought more aggressively -- and with more troops.

Pentagon planners say they could add about another 20,000 troops, but only for about six months because the Army is stretched so thin.

However, there's no real political support for a troop increase, even a temporary one.

There is also no substantial support any longer for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq.

So, the Pentagon is now studying how to use the 141,000 troops now in Iraq more effectively. One idea is to move some out of the troubled Anbar province and into Baghdad for a massive new effort to secure the capital. But leaving Anbar less protected could open a new safe haven for terrorists.

"There is no good solution here," said ABC News analyst Fareed Zakaria. "There is no path to victory. There are various options that can limit damage."

Under the Iraq Study Group's plan, the U.S. troops that remain in Iraq would work as advisors and trainers supporting the Iraqi troops.

"What we are trying to do, I think," Zakaria said, "is to move our involvement in this conflict to something more similar to the early days of the Vietnam conflict, where we are very much in a secondary and supportive role."

ABC News' Jonathan Karl reported this story for "World News."

Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...