Democrats reject general's plan for U.S. troops in Iraq

WASHINGTON -- A day before President Bush was to deliver a major address on the war, Senate Democrats rejected a four-star general's recommendation to keep some 130,000 troops in Iraq through next summer and called for legislation that would sharply limit the mission of U.S. forces.

Their proposal was not expected to set a deadline to end the war, as many Democrats want, but instead restrict troops to a narrow set of objectives: training the Iraqi military and police, protecting U.S. assets and fighting terrorists, party officials said.

The goal of the tempered measure is to attract enough Republican votes to break the 60-vote threshold in the Senate needed to end a filibuster -- something Democrats have been unable to do since taking control of Congress eight months ago.

The developments Wednesday reflected a struggle by Democrats to regain momentum in the war debate, dominated by two days of testimony by Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador there.

Petraeus said the 30,000 troop buildup initiated earlier this year had yielded some security gains and needed more time. He recommended slowly reversing the buildup, drawing down about 5,500 soldiers and Marines by the end of the year and returning to 130,000 troops next summer.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and other Democrats swiftly rejected the proposal, saying it does not go far enough.

Whereas Petraeus' assessment inflamed Democrats, it assuaged many Republicans.

In a 15-minute address from the White House at 8 p.m. today, Bush will endorse Petraeus' recommendations, administration officials said. The White House also plans to issue a status report on the troop buildup Friday, they said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because Bush's speech is not final.