U.S. military plans Iraq fallback strategy: report

WASHINGTON Mon Mar 12, 2007 11:55am EDT

A U.S. soldier (L) from Delta company 2/325, 82nd Airborne and an Iraqi national police officer conduct a joint patrol in Baghdad's Sadr City March 11, 2007. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

A U.S. soldier (L) from Delta company 2/325, 82nd Airborne and an Iraqi national police officer conduct a joint patrol in Baghdad's Sadr City March 11, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. military planners have begun work on a fallback strategy in case the U.S. troop buildup in Iraq fails, including a gradual pullout of U.S. forces and more emphasis on training and advising Iraqi forces, the Los Angeles Times reported in Monday's editions.

The strategy, based partly on the U.S. experience in El Salvador in the 1980s, is in the early planning stages, the newspaper said, citing U.S. military officials and Pentagon consultants who spoke on condition of anonymity.

It is a fallback if the Bush administration's plan to send about 26,000 more U.S. troops fails to stabilize Iraq, or if the Democratic-led Congress limits that move, it said.

The newspaper quoted a Pentagon official as saying "This part of the world has an allergy against foreign presence. You have a window of opportunity that is relatively short. Your ability to influence this with a large U.S. force eventually gets to a point that is self-defeating."

The United States sent 55 Green Berets to El Salvador to help its military fight rebels from 1981 to 1992, in a drive to make the U.S. military presence less visible, the newspaper said.

It said Pentagon officials said the Iraq plan would have to entail many more advisors, but that the El Salvador model had influenced planning.

There are currently about 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

Shifting from a troop increase to more reliance on an advisory role would bring the administration more in line with the Iraq Study Group, the bipartisan panel that recommended a gradual reduction in U.S. combat forces in Iraq.

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