Sally B. Donnelly reports that battalion commanders with experience on the ground in Iraq have told the Senate Armed Services Committee that they want more troops, in contrast to what the top brass has been saying, but she doesn't mention that this "shortage" could be an integral part of President Bush's "flypaper" strategy.

According to two sources with knowledge of the meeting, the Army and Marine officers were blunt. In contrast to the Pentagon's stock answer that there are enough troops on the ground in Iraq, the commanders said that they not only needed more manpower but also had repeatedly asked for it. Indeed, military sources told TIME that as recently as August 2005, a senior military official requested more troops but got turned down flat.

There are about 160,000 U.S. troops now in Iraq, a number U.S. commanders in the region plan to maintain at least through the Iraqi national assembly elections on Dec. 15. But the battalion commanders, according to sources close to last week's meeting, said that because there are not enough troops, they have to "leapfrog" around Iraq to keep insurgents from returning to towns that have been cleared out.

It may be the case that allowing openings for terrorists is part of the strategy. If we sent another 100,000 troops to Iraq and clamped down hard, the thousands of foreign terrorists we've killed might not have decided to come to Iraq at all. The President is constantly referring to Iraq as "terrorist flypaper"; even though the terrorists don't comprehend that they're being lured to their deaths, I don't think we should be so naive. I'm not saying I think this is the greatest strategy ever, and the short-term appearance has certainly hurt the President's popularity, but I think the strategy is at least reasonable and it has the potential to work profoundly well.



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