US President George W. Bush said Tuesday that he plans to expand the size of the US military to meet the challenges of "a long-term global war against terrorists."
In an interview with The Washington Post at the White House, Bush said it was a response to warnings that sustained deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan have stretched the armed forces to near the breaking point.
He said he has instructed newly sworn-in Defense Secretary Robert Gates to report back to him with a plan to increase ground forces.
The president gave no estimates about how many troops may be added but indicated that he agreed with suggestions in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill that the current military is stretched too thin to cope with the demands placed on it.
The decision comes at a time when he is rethinking his strategy in Iraq and considering, among other options, a short-term surge in troop levels to try to secure violence-torn Baghdad.
In describing his decision, Bush tied it to the broader struggle against extremists around the world rather than Iraq specifically.
"It is an accurate reflection that this ideological war we're in is going to last for a while and that we're going to need a military that's capable of being able to sustain our efforts and to help us achieve peace," he said.
Bush said he has not yet made a decision about a new strategy for Iraq and would wait for Gates to make a trip to Iraq to assess the situation for himself.
(Xinhua News Agency December 20, 2006)