ABC's Dan Harris: Possible U.S. Troop Surge in Iraq Already 'Very Unpopular'

It has been widely speculated that President Bush will call for an increase in the number of U.S. troops in Iraq as part of his new war strategy. Though no changes have been officially announced, ABC's Dan Harris on Good Morning America Monday predicted gloom and doom in terms of public support for the war. Introducing a live report from reporter Jonathan Karl at the Pentagon, Harris prognosticated that this new policy would be 'very unpopular':

Dan Harris: "And now to the expected surge of U.S. troops in Iraq. As Robert Gates is sworn in today as the new defense secretary, thousands more Americans may soon be headed into the war zone. This could be a very unpopular policy, and ABC's Jonathan Karl is standing by at the Pentagon this morning. Jonathan?"

This was not Harris' first downbeat assessment of the possible increase in U.S. forces. He was equally dour on the December 17 edition of World News Sunday. Prefacing a full report from White House correspondent Geoff Morrell, Harris emphasized the unpopularity of the much-talked about proposal:

Harris: "Tomorrow, at the Pentagon, a new man will step into one of the toughest jobs in Washington. Robert Gates will be sworn in as the newest secretary of defense, replacing Donald Rumsfeld. There are strong indications that Gates will be asked to implement a very unpopular plan, sending tens of thousands of additional troops into Iraq."

In his report, Morrell cited an ABC poll showing that only 17 percent of Americans support sending more U.S. troops into Iraq. While that would support Harris' statement that the purported new policy is not popular, his emphasis on this aspect downplays any potential benefit from an increased U.S. presence. Neither Harris nor Morrell reported others contentions that more U.S. troops could control the violence in Baghdad and stabilize the country.Both reports from Karl and Morrell featured former Secretary of State Colin Powell's dismissal of the proposal and Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid's support for a short surge in troops of "two or three months." Neither, however, featured supporters of the proposed policy, such as Senator John McCain. Transcripts of the two reports follow below.From Monday’s Good Morning America:

Dan Harris: "And now to the expected surge of U.S. troops in Iraq. As Robert Gates is sworn in today as the new defense secretary, thousands more Americans may soon be headed into the war zone. This could be a very unpopular policy, and ABC's Jonathan Karl is standing by at the Pentagon this morning. Jonathan?"Jonathan Karl: "Dan, this morning, Pentagon planners are working on ways to send those additional troops into Iraq, an option the President is seriously considering. The idea has been called doubling down, making one more big push to control the violence in Baghdad. The surge now under consideration could send more than 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq, making the total force there larger than at any time since the war began. It would be controversial. President Bush's former secretary of state says he doubts more troops would get the job done."Colin Powell, former Secretary of State: "I am not persuaded that another surge of troops into Baghdad for the purpose of suppressing this communitarian violence, or civil war, will work." Karl: "But the idea of sending more troops for a short period of time has the cautious support of Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid."Senator Harry Reid: "If it's for a surge, that is for two or three months, and it's part of a program to get us out of of there, as indicated, by this time next year, then sure I'll go along with it." Karl: "The White House says no decisions have been made, but if the President decides to go through with plans for more troops, officials say the increase could last as long as a year. President Bush will be here at the Pentagon later today for the swearing in of his new defense secretary Robert Gates. Officials say no final decisions will be made on military strategy until Gates has had a chance to travel to Iraq and offer his own opinions about what should be done. Dan?"Harris: "But, again, this double down strategy is really in the mix."

From the December 17 World News Sunday:

Dan Harris: "Tomorrow, at the Pentagon, a new man will step into one of the toughest jobs in Washington. Robert Gates will be sworn in as the newest secretary of defense, replacing Donald Rumsfeld. There are strong indications that Gates will be asked to implement a very unpopular plan, sending tens of thousands of additional troops into Iraq. ABC’s Geoff Morrell is at the White House tonight."Geoff Morrell: "The President’s former secretary of state, Colin Powell, today gave a blunt assessment of the proposal to send thousands more U.S. troops to Iraq, it will not work." Colin Powell, former Secretary of State: "There needs to be a clear mission that these additional troops are going to be performing. Is it to secure Baghdad? In which case, the American army isn't large enough to secure Baghdad, and we should not use our troops as policemen." Morrell: "But the Democratic leader of the Senate told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos his party could support a troop surge, albeit a short one." Senator Harry Reid: "If it's for a surge, that is for two or three months, and it's part of a program to get us out of there as indicated by this time next year, then sure, I'll go along with it." Morrell: "That is not the plan President Bush is considering. In fact, sources tell ABC News he will likely call for an escalation in forces lasting years, not months. A final decision won't come until Robert Gates takes over the Pentagon tomorrow and travels to the region later in the week. But during his confirmation hearing, Gates signaled his openness to putting more boots on the ground." Robert Gates, secretary of defense: "That certainly is an option." Morrell: "Although not a popular one. According to a recent ABC News poll, just 17 percent of Americans say U.S. forces should be increased. More than half say they should be decreased, making this a politically risky path for President Bush."David Gergen: "I think he wants to make it an open-ended war and go for victory, no matter how long it takes. I don't think the, the political system here at home will sustain in that. There is not enough support here." Morrell: "And there may not be enough support in Congress. Although the commander-in-chief leads the military, the Congress funds it, and with Democrats now in charge, the President, Dan, will no doubt have a tough time trying to convince them to finance a long-term surge of U.S. troops." Harris: "George Stephanopoulos described it as a hurricane-strength head wind. Geoff Morrell from the White House tonight. Geoff, thank you."