WASHINGTON – Senior Defense Department officials are mapping out a new strategy for Iraq defined by insiders as "go big," "go long" and "go home," according to a newspaper report.
Monday's edition of The Washington Post says a secret review commissioned by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Peter Pace outlines three alternatives for Iraq: sending in more troops for a short-term blitz, shrinking the force on the ground but staying longer or ditching Iraq and pulling out.
The three options are "very similar to ideas expressed in public" by military officials, a senior military official told FOX News. Since September, Pace has been meeting at least once a week with 16 colonels and captains just back from Iraq to develop options, taking into consideration "where we are, what's the desired end state and how to get there."
Pace has also acknowledged the review during multiple television interviews he did on Veterans Day.
One senior military officer said the group is working with a sense of urgency, given the deteriorating situation in Iraq and recognition of the fact that this month's congressional election has shown that the American people want to see progress in Iraq.
At some point, Pace will draft his own conclusions and forward them to the administration. An official who spoke on condition of anonymity told the newspaper that the group conducting the review is likely to recommend a combination of the first two options, but favors going long.
That comports with remarks made last week by U.S. Central Command chief Gen. John Abizaid to the Senate Armed Services Committee. Abizaid said the number of U.S. military trainers in Iraq might be increased to hasten the pace of training Iraqi security forces. Abizaid made clear that he didn't see much merit in bulking up U.S. combat forces, something that he said would be unsustainable over the long haul.
At home, voters made their opinion of the war known during a midterm election that ousted many Republicans who favor President Bush's position of pressing onward.
Democrats are split about what to do with the U.S. commitment in Iraq, but two in powerful positions next Congress are looking at timetables for withdrawal.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said last week that he favors a plan to get out within four to six months.
In the absence of a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops, Levin told a cable news network that Iraqis are "going to continue to have the false assumption that we are there in some kind of an open-ended way. And it is that assumption on their part that takes them off the hook."
Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., the incoming head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told NBC on Monday that he is waiting for recommendations from the Iraq Study Group, a congressionally-commissioned panel mandated with finding solutions.
Biden, a possible presidential contender, said he wants the panel to make clear that U.S. troops won't stay indefinitely, adding that the United States should begin to let Iraq's leaders know of that plan so they can address the issue of "how to get Iraqis to stand together."
Biden said he also hopes the group led by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton will propose a clear political road map for Iraq and recommend engaging Iraq's neighbors in a political and diplomatic solution.
"Over the next four months let them know we're going to start to phase out, force them to have to address the central issue. That is not how to stand up Iraqis, but how to get Iraqis to stand together," Biden said.
"The idea that we're going to have 140,000 troops in Iraq this time next year is just not reasonable," he said.
On Sunday, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, a Vietnam pilot and possible 2008 presidential candidate, said more troops should be sent in and that the soldiers there now are "fighting and dying for a failed policy."
"I believe the consequences of failure are catastrophic," said McCain. "It will spread to the region. You will see Iran more emboldened. Eventually, you could see Iran pose a greater threat to the state of Israel."
But Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said Monday he wants to "Go Iraqi" by adding Iraqi troops to the most combat-intensive area. Hunter said Pentagon officials told him 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.
"We need to saddle those up and deploy them to the fight" in dangerous areas, primarily in Baghdad, said Hunter, who also is considering a run for president in 2008.
Before leaving Indonesia on Monday, President Bush told reporters he has yet to make any decisions about U.S. troop levels in Iraq. The top-to-bottom "scrub," as Pace calls it, of U.S. strategy in Iraq comes at the same time the White House is conducting its own review to coincide with the release of the Iraqi Study Group report. A senior military official told FOX News that the three reviews of U.S. strategy in Iraq will likely come together to form the basis of a way ahead.
With about 141,000 U.S. troops in Iraq more than 3 1/2 years into the war, the American military has strained to provide enough forces while allowing for adequate rest and retraining between deployments.
Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel of New York repeated his call for reinstituting the military draft, which the administration has repeatedly said it doesn't need, and which Congress rejected the last time Rangle brought it up.
"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," Rangel, the incoming chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, told CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday.
Rangel said he will introduce a bill next year requiring Americans to sign up for a new military draft after turning 18. He has said the all-volunteer military disproportionately puts the burden of war on minorities and lower-income families.
But asked about whether such legislation would reach the House floor next year, incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave an unequivocal "no" on Monday. Pelosi said Rangel's comments were merely "a way to make a point."
"It's not about a draft, it's about shared sacrifice in this country," Pelosi said, adding that Rangel is "a strong voice for social justice in our country."
FOX News' Nick Simeone and Mike Emanuel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.