Faced with the demands of fighting a two-front war, the Joint Chiefs warned President Bush Wednesday that more U.S. troops may soon be needed in Afghanistan, reports CBS News national security correspondent David Martin.
But reinforcements would have to come out of troop levels in Iraq, leaving the president with a stark choice of pulling too many troops out of Iraq or putting too few into Afghanistan. The chiefs also told the president the two-front war has created a significant risk of not having enough forces to respond to other crises.
The chiefs endorsed the recommendation of Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, that there should be a several-week pause in withdrawals when the surge ends this July and American troop levels are down to 140,000, Martin reports.
That will allow the Army to end its 15-month combat tours and go back to slightly less-punishing 12-month deployments. But neither the chiefs nor Petraeus are willing to make any commitment to further withdrawals. And the president agrees.
"We have learned through hard experience what happens when we pull our forces back too fast," he said.
But Afghanistan, where there are nearly 60,000 NATO troops, 31,000 of them American, is facing rising levels of violence, and the top commander there has warned the Pentagon he may send out a call for reinforcements.
"We have to assume that at least half of the reinforcements are going to have to come from the U.S.," Former Special Envoy to Afghanistan James Dobbins said.
With or without more troop withdrawals from Iraq, there will be no let up in the pace of combat operations for the remainder of the Bush presidency, Martin reports.