Although Mr. McCain did not say so, American commanders here are divided on the recommendations they will present to Mr. Bush, who has said he will announce a new strategy for the war in early January, officials familiar with the generals’ discussions say.
General Casey, the top commander here, is said to be cautious, arguing that an increase could lower violence in Baghdad, at least temporarily, but that it could also encourage Iraq’s feuding political leaders to delay tough decisions needed to stem the slide toward anarchy.
Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the second-highest-ranking American officer in Iraq, has been the allied forces’ operational commander for the past year, and he has resisted a troop increase, the officials say, believing an American-financed job creation program could do as much to weaken the insurgents and political militias.
General Chiarelli’s successor, Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, who took over at a ceremony in Baghdad on Thursday, is bullish, seeing a troop increase as a way for American and Iraqi troops to gain the upper hand in Baghdad and Anbar Province, a desert region virtually overrun by Sunni insurgents, the officials say.
Another cautionary voice has been that of Gen. John P. Abizaid, leader of the Central Command, which oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. General Abizaid has said increasing troop strength, especially in Baghdad, could have an impact on the mounting cycle of revenge in which Sunni suicide bombings of Shiite civilian targets have set off murderous attacks on Sunni civilians by Shiite death squads. But General Abizaid, like General Casey, has said the impact would be temporary if Iraqi politicians failed to end sectarian feuding.