WASHINGTON - A Pentagon review of Iraq has come up with three options - injecting more troops into Iraq, shrinking the force but staying longer or pulling out.
The Washington Post quoted senior defense officials as dubbing the three alternatives "Go big, go long and go home."
The secret military study was commissioned by Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and comes as political and military leaders struggle with how to conduct a war that is increasingly unpopular, both in the United States and in occupied Iraq.
Pace has said that all options for the Iraq war are on the table. Those would range from significantly boosting the number of troops to withdrawing a substantial portion of those now there.
Meanwhile, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter said Monday that the United States should push for available and trained Iraqi security forces to be sent to the front lines of the fight to stabilize the wartorn country, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter said Monday.
"We need to saddle those up and deploy them to the fight" in dangerous areas, primarily in Baghdad, Hunter, a California Republican who is interested in his party's 2008 presidential nomination, told The Associated Press in an interview. He took a different tack from Sen. John McCain, a front-running 2008 hopeful who has urged that additional U.S. troops be sent there.
Monday's statements continued an Iraq war policy debate that has been intensifying before and since midterm elections that saw Democrats grab back control of the House and Senate from the GOP.
Also on Monday, Rep. Charles Rangel, a New York Democrat, pushed again on his argument that the military draft should be reinstated.
Rangel, incoming chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, had said Sunday that "there's no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft."
In a speech Monday at Baruch College, he said he wants to hold hearings into current troop levels and future plans for Iraq and other potential conflict regions.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson endorsed Rangel's position, saying the country currently has "a backdoor draft."
But House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi, talking to reporters Monday, said restoring the draft will not be on the early legislative priority list for the 110th Congress. Incoming House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer added, "The speaker and I discussed scheduling and it did not include that."
McCain said more troops should be sent into Iraq and that the soldiers there now are "fighting and dying for a failed policy."
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said troop withdrawals must begin within four to six months.
Last week Gen. John Abizaid, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, said the emphasis must be on training and preparing the Iraqis to take control of their own country.
According to senior military officials on Pace's staff, there are 16 military members, largely colonels who have recently served in the Gulf region, who have been meeting daily as part of the Iraq review. Pace has asked the group to look at what is going right or wrong in the military conduct of the entire global war on terror, including particularly the war in Iraq and what options are available to make progress.
There will be no formal report or recommendations to Pace and there is no set timetable for any presentations or ideas, said the officials, who requested anonymity because the deliberations are not public. Pace, they said, will use any thoughts and options coming out of the review to help develop his own recommendations for the defense secretary and the president.
Hunter said in the AP interview that he wants to "Go Iraqi." He also said the Pentagon has told him that some 114 Iraqi battalions are trained and equipped, and 27 of those units are operating in areas that see less than one attack a day.
A special advisory commission led by Bush family friend and former Secretary of State James Baker and former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton is to issue its report soon, and there has been strong speculation that its members would propose a way ahead for Iraq while making clear the U.S. military mission shouldn't last indefinitely.
The commission is expected to release its findings and recommendations sometime next month.
Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., who will take over the Foreign Relations Committee in January, said he'd like to see the commission assert that U.S. troop commitments are not open-ended; propose a clear political road map for Iraq; and recommend engaging Iraq's neighbors in a political and diplomatic solution.
The United States should "begin to let the Iraqi leadership know we're not going to be staying," he said Monday on NBC's "Today" program.
McCain said the U.S. must send an overwhelming number of troops to stabilize Iraq or face more attacks - in the region and possibly on American soil.