The Bush administration is considering the withdrawal of additional combat forces from Iraq beginning in September, according to administration and military officials, raising the prospect of a far more ambitious plan than expected only months ago.
Such a withdrawal would be a striking reversal from the nadir of the war in 2006 and 2007.
One factor in the consideration is the pressing need for additional American troops in Afghanistan, where the Taliban and other fighters have intensified their insurgency and inflicted a growing number of casualties on Afghans and American-led forces there.
More American and allied troops died in Afghanistan than in Iraq in May and June, a trend that has continued this month.
Although no decision has been made, by the time President Bush leaves office on Jan. 20, at least one and as many as 3 of the 15 combat brigades now in Iraq could be withdrawn or at least scheduled for withdrawal, the officials said.
The desire to move more quickly reflects the view of many in the Pentagon who want to ease the strain on the military but also to free more troops for Afghanistan and potentially other missions.