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ARLINGTON, Va. — The Army is prepared to send about 10,000 extra troops to Iraq if requested by President Bush, a defense official said Thursday.

Bush is expected to announce his new plan for Iraq next week, and that may include sending more troops to the war zone or extending troops already there. The defense official confirmed earlier reports by CBS News and The Associated Press that the Defense Department was ready to send the extra troops. The reports said up to 9,000 troops would be added, with about 7,000 going into Baghdad, and roughly 1,500 slated for Anbar province.

Media outlets had speculated that the president might increase overall U.S. troop strength in Iraq between 20,000 and 40,000 servicemembers.

If the president orders a surge, the Army could send two to three brigade combat teams, which may include the 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, which received orders last week to head to Kuwait as the next call-forward force, the defense official said.

Meanwhile, about 2,200 Marines and sailors with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit now in Iraq could be extended, said the unit’s commander, Col. Brian Beaudreault, on Thursday.

Maj. Gen. Richard C. Zilmer, commander of Multi-National Force-West, has asked that the MEU stay longer in Anbar to keep up the momentum the unit has generated, said MNF-W spokesman Lt. Col. Bryan Salas.

Beaudreault would not say for how much longer the MEU might have to stay in Anbar province.

The request is now making its way up the chain of command and must ultimately be approved by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, officials said.

Beaudreault said his unit has yet to receive an official order to be extended, but the Marines and sailors in the MEU are ready if they have to stay longer in Anbar.

“We’re more prepared to spend some additional time over here to finish what we started,” he said in a phone interview Thursday. He also said his troops’ morale is “outstanding” and recent progress in Anbar province shows that U.S. forces are winning.

The 15th MEU left in September on a routine six-month deployment, but in November the unit was ordered from Kuwait to Iraq.

Operating in an almost 10,000-square-mile area from near Ramadi to the Syrian border, the 15th MEU has put pressure on insurgents all over Anbar province, Beaudreault said.

Beaudreault said he had not heard if any other Marine units now in Iraq might be extended.

Salas said it is up to Gates to decide whether to increase overall U.S. troop strength in Iraq.

“We presented several courses of action for the way ahead and all are being considered by our national leadership,” Salas said in a Thursday e-mail to Stars and Stripes. “It would be speculation to attempt to define what decisions will be made.”

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