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Bush's Expected Iraq Move Already Sees Washington Opposition

U.S. President George W. Bush (file photo) (epa) January 6, 2007 -- U.S. President George W. Bush's expected plan to send more troops to Iraq is already running into opposition in Washington, with Republicans joining Democrats in questioning the plan before the president has even rolled it out.

Observers expect a new White House strategy for Iraq to be unveiled in the coming days, including a temporary increase in the number of U.S. soldiers there.

Ahead of that move, White House spokesman Tony Snow announced on January 5 that a reshuffle of military leaders would take place according to recommendations from new Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

'Capable Individuals'

"I think [President Bush] has found very able and capable individuals," Snow said. "Secretary Gates and the president are very happy with the people they are going to be proposing."

Under the changes, which need Senate approval, General George Casey will be replaced by Lieutenant General David Petraeus as America's top commander in Iraq.

Admiral William Fallon will replace General John Abizaid as head of Central Command, which oversees operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But Bush's expected announcement of what some have deemed a "surge" of U.S. troops to Iraq is what is sparking opposition in Washington.

The two top Democrats in Congress, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid (Nevada) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (California), argue such a move would "endanger more Americans" and stretch the military "to the breaking point."

Several Republicans also oppose it, including Senator Susan Collins (Maine), an Air Force veteran who says it is time for Iraqis to ensure their own security.

Bush has already nominated retired Vice Admiral John McConnell to replace John Negroponte as director of national intelligence and Negroponte to become deputy secretary of state.

On January 5, spokesman Snow unveiled the changes in the U.S. military leadership.

"In addition, the Pentagon, within the hour, has announced recommendations by Defense Secretary Gates to elevate General George Casey to become Army chief of staff; General George Petraeus to be head of the Multinational Forces in Iraq; Admiral William Fallon to assume command of Central Command; and announced the retirement of General John Abizaid. Now, the president has accepted these recommendations and will be forwarding the nominations. And he's pleased to do so."

Snow told reporters the changes were partially a response to changing tactics but also to the impending retirements of some current military leaders.

"What you do have is a situation as you develop a new way forward you had a situation where a couple of guys whose billets were going to come up within a period of time," the White House spokesman said. "The answer is once you start on a new way forward do you change then or do you change now? And it makes sense that you are going to have your command team that is going to be in place as you are working on this new way forward and enacting it and I think he has found very able and capable individuals Secretary Gates and the President are very happy with the people they are going to be proposing."

The recent replacement of Donald Rumsfeld by Robert Gates heralded impending changes in the military and in the conduct of military actions under way in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the war on terrorism.

Iraq In Transition

Iraq In Transition

THE COMPLETE STORY: RFE/RL's complete coverage of events in Iraq and that country's ongoing transition.