As of Tuesday, at least 3,741 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
Washington President Bush's senior advisers on Iraq have recommended he stand by his current war strategy, and he is unlikely to order more than a symbolic cut in troops before the end of the year, administration officials told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
The recommendations from the military commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker come despite independent government findings Tuesday that Baghdad has not met most of the political, military and economic markers set by Congress.
Bush appears set on maintaining the central elements of the policy he announced in January, one senior administration official said after discussions with participants in Bush's briefings during his surprise visit to an air base in Iraq on Monday.
Although the addition of 30,000 troops and the focus on increasing security in Baghdad would not be permanent, Bush is inclined to give it more time in hopes of extending military gains in Baghdad and the formerly restive Anbar province, officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to describe decisions coming as part of the White House report on Iraq due to Congress next week.
The plan they described is fraught with political risk. While Republican leaders on Tuesday suggested the GOP may be willing to support keeping troops in the region through spring, it is unclear whether rank-and-file party members who face tough elections next year will be willing to follow their lead.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell told reporters he would like to ensure a long-term U.S. presence in the Middle East to fight al-Qaida and deter aggression from Iran.
"And I hope that this reaction to Iraq and the highly politicized nature of dealing with Iraq this year doesn't end up in a situation where we just bring all the troops back home and thereby expose us, once again, to the kind of attacks we've had here in the homeland or on American facilities," said McConnell, R-Ky.
With Monday's back-to-back review sessions in Iraq, Bush has now heard from all the military chiefs, diplomats and other advisers he planned to consult before making a widely anticipated report to Congress by Sept. 15. Petraeus and Crocker are to testify before Congress on their recommendations next week.
The United States would be hard-pressed to maintain the current level of 160,000 troops in Iraq indefinitely, but Bush is not expected to order more than a slight cut before the end of the year, officials said.