Washington: President George W. Bush asked Congress to revise his emergency spending request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to pay for as many as 4,400 more troops to support the deployment of additional combat forces.
The president, in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said he wants to redirect $3.2 billion within the $93 billion supplemental spending request for this fiscal year to pay for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for Bush’s National Security Council.
The additional troops, on top of 21,500 soldiers and Marines Bush previously announced he would send to Iraq, would be designated to help with detainees captured during security sweeps and other support roles, Johndroe said. The extra force was requested by General David Petraeus, commander of US troops in Iraq.
“The number of people going into detention will increase, and so these military policy forces will be for that,” Johndroe told reporters in Montevideo, Uruguay, during Bush’s trip to Latin America.
The request may add a new complication to the debate over Bush’s troop deployment in Congress. Pelosi and House Democrats are struggling to agree on legislation opposing Bush’s Iraq policy and his plan to add more troops. They are considering adding a provision that would force the administration to adopt a withdrawal deadline to a measure providing for the supplemental funding.
As part of the change Bush is seeking, $482 million would be shifted to pay for more troops and intelligence support in Afghanistan and for counter-terrorism programs in Pakistan, according to a breakdown by the Office of Management and Budget. It also would direct $100 million to restart factories in Iraq. The spending would be offset by trimming other parts of the request.
“This revised request would better align resources based on the assessment of military commanders to achieve the goal of establishing Iraq and Afghanistan as democratic and secure nations that are free of terrorism,” Bush said in letter to Pelosi, Democrat of California.
There are about 141,000 US troops in Iraq now, including the first arrivals who are part of Bush’s increase, intended to improve security in Baghdad and battle terrorists in Iraq’s al- Anbar province. Bush previously announced plans to boost the number of US troops in Afghanistan by about 3,200 in anticipation of a spring offensive by the Taliban. The US now has about 27,000 troops there.
Bush approved the shift in funds yesterday while aboard Air Force One en route to Uruguay. The letter was released by the White House on 11 March.
The spending level wouldn’t increase. “Overall, the discretionary budget authority in my FY 2007 supplemental proposal would not be increased by these requests,” Bush said. That’s because the military is temporarily canceling requests for other Pentagon items “of lower priority” for the Defence Department, Johndroe said.