Bush is making sure that not only won't he bring this war in Iraq to an end by the end of his term in office, his successor won't be able to either - Bush will have us in war with Iran before he's out of the White House.
The Bush administration is quietly on track to nearly double the number of combat troops in Iraq this year, an analysis of Pentagon deployment orders showed Monday.
The little-noticed second surge, designed to reinforce U.S. troops in Iraq, is being executed by sending more combat brigades and extending tours of duty for troops already there.
The actions could boost the number of combat soldiers from 52,500 in early January to as many as 98,000 by the end of this year if the Pentagon overlaps arriving and departing combat brigades.
Separately, when additional support troops are included in this second troop increase, the total number of U.S. troops in Iraq could increase from 162,000 now to more than 200,000 -- a record-high number -- by the end of the year.
The numbers were arrived at by an analysis of deployment orders by Hearst Newspapers.
"It doesn't surprise me that they're not talking about it," said retired Army Maj. Gen. William Nash, a former U.S. commander of NATO troops in Bosnia, referring to the Bush administration. "I think they would be very happy not to have any more attention paid to this."
The first surge was prominently announced by President Bush in a nationally televised address on Jan. 10, when he ordered five more combat brigades to join 15 brigades already in Iraq.
The buildup was designed to give commanders the 20 combat brigades Pentagon planners said were needed to provide security in Baghdad and western Anbar province.
Since then, the Pentagon has extended combat tours for units in Iraq from 12 months to 15 months and announced the deployment of additional brigades.
Taken together, the steps could put elements of as many as 28 combat brigades in Iraq by Christmas, according the deployment orders examined by Hearst Newspapers.
Army spokesman Lt. Col. Carl S. Ey said there was no effort by the Army to carry out "a secret surge" beyond the 20 combat brigades ordered by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
"There isn't a second surge going on; we've got what we've got," Ey said. "The idea that there are ever going to be more combat brigades in theater in the future than the secretary of defense has authorized is pure speculation."
Ey attributed the increase in troops to "temporary increases that typically occur during the crossover period" as arriving combat brigades move into position to replace departing combat brigades.
He said that only elements of the eight additional combat brigades beyond the 20 already authorized would actually be in Iraq in December.
The U.S. Joint Forces Command, based in Norfolk, Va., that tracks combat forces heading to and returning from Iraq, declined to discuss unit-by-unit deployments.
"Due to operational security, we cannot confirm or discuss military unit movements or schedules," Navy Lt. Jereal Dorsey said in an e-mail.
The Pentagon has repeatedly extended unit tours in Iraq during the past four years to achieve temporary increases in combat power. For example, three combat brigades were extended up to three months in November 2004 to boost the number of U.S. troops from 138,000 to 150,000 before, during and after the Jan. 30, 2005, Iraqi national elections.
Lawrence Korb, an assistant defense secretary for manpower during the Reagan administration, said the Pentagon deployment schedule enables the Bush administration to achieve quick increases in combat forces in the future by delaying units' scheduled departures from Iraq and overlapping them with arriving replacement forces.
"The administration is giving itself the capability to increase the number of troops in Iraq," Korb said. "It remains to be seen whether they actually choose to do that."
Nash said the capability could reflect an effort by the Bush administration to "get the number of troops into Iraq that we've needed there all along."
Meanwhile, ABCnews.com reports:
The CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert "black" operation to destabilize the Iranian government, current and former officials in the intelligence community tell the Blotter on ABCNews.com.
The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject, say President Bush has signed a "nonlethal presidential finding" that puts into motion a CIA plan that reportedly includes a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation of Iran's currency and international financial transactions.
"I can't confirm or deny whether such a program exists or whether the president signed it, but it would be consistent with an overall American approach trying to find ways to put pressure on the regime," said Bruce Riedel, a recently retired CIA senior official who dealt with Iran and other countries in the region.
A National Security Council spokesperson, Gordon Johndroe, said, "The White House does not comment on intelligence matters." A CIA spokesperson said, "As a matter of course, we do not comment on allegations of covert activity."
The sources say the CIA developed the covert plan over the last year and received approval from White House officials and other officials in the intelligence community.
Officials say the covert plan is designed to pressure Iran to stop its nuclear enrichment program and end aid to insurgents in Iraq.
"There are some channels where the United States government may want to do things without its hand showing, and legally, therefore, the administration would, if it's doing that, need an intelligence finding and would need to tell the Congress," said ABC News consultant Richard Clarke, a former White House counterterrorism official.
Current and former intelligence officials say the approval of the covert action means the Bush administration, for the time being, has decided not to pursue a military option against Iran.