- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 9, 2007

President Bush is hoping to reset the political debate tomorrow night and spur Congress to reconsider what can be accomplished in Iraq when he lays out his new war strategy, which is expected to include a temporary increase of 20,000 troops.

The president put the finishing touches on the new diplomatic and military teams yesterday that will put his plan into place, tapping the current ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, to become ambassador to the United Nations and naming Ryan C. Crocker, the ambassador to Pakistan, to replace Mr. Khalilzad in Baghdad.

That comes two months after Mr. Bush named a new secretary of defense and just days after he nominated new military leaders to oversee the conflict.

The Pentagon has drawn up options for sending about 20,000 troops, or four brigades, whose main task would be to quell the violence in Baghdad, block by block, and not let insurgents return once they are routed.

Some of the increase would come from keeping some units in Iraq longer than planned, sending other units earlier than planned and possibly diverting troops from other regions.

The White House is also creating an economic package that will be tied to certain conditions. The figure of $5 billion has been mentioned. Congress has appropriated more than $30 billion in reconstruction and redevelopment money since the war began in 2003.

White House press secretary Tony Snow would not talk about details of the president’s 9 p.m. speech but said the president knows he has a job to do persuading lawmakers and the American public to support the effort.

“It’s important to rebuild the sense of political unity,” he said.

Many Democrats have already lined up against the strategy, saying Mr. Bush is trying to escalate U.S. involvement rather than begin withdrawing U.S. forces, as they want. But it was not clear what options are open to them.

Sen. Barack Obama yesterday said he is “investigating” whether Congress could block funding for a troop surge “without potentially reducing the resources that are available to the troops that are” in Iraq.

“It’s not clear that that can be done, that you can segment off budgets for the troops that are already there from additional troop levels,” said Mr. Obama, Illinois Democrat. “It creates a difficult situation for Democrats.”

House Appropriations Committee Chairman David R. Obey, Wisconsin Democrat, said it is “very complicated” to chop a troops appropriations bill into pieces, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said withholding funds for U.S. troops is “off the table.”

Mr. Snow said the White House hopes critics take time to evaluate what Mr. Bush proposes.

“I know it’s tempting to think: Boy, this is going to set off big old political firestorm, and it very well may. But on the other hand, it may actually set off a period of reflection and constructive activity,” Mr. Snow said.

The president does have some supporters.

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