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WAR PLAN PUTS U.S. TROOPS IN IRAQ IN '09

A revised U.S. military plan for Iraq envisions local authorities enforcing security by 2009 but leaves open the questions of how many U.S. troops will still be needed and how quickly Americans can begin to leave in large numbers, U.S. officials said Tuesday.

The plan appears to reflect an assertion by U.S. commanders that this year's troop buildup will be needed until next summer, one defense official said. He spoke to the Associated Press only on condition of anonymity about a timetable that is politically sensitive - many in Congress are pushing for a decrease in U.S. involvement in a matter of months.

The Pentagon said no final decisions on changes have been made.

The revised plan foresees establishing security at the local level in Baghdad and elsewhere by the summer of 2008, although it probably would take another year to get Iraqi forces ready to enforce any newfound stability, the U.S. officials said.

A number of U.S. generals commanding troops in separate regions in Iraq have said in recent days that they expect enough improvement in their areas to begin cutting American troops before that - one said August, another said January. But the United States may want to shift those thousands of troops to other areas of Iraq that are in worse condition.

The new plan, known as the Joint Campaign Plan, was developed by Gen. David Petraeus and his political counterpart in Baghdad, Ambassador Ryan Crocker. They are to testify before Congress in September on how the current strategy is working and whether it needs to be revised.

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