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Top U.S. general: Iraq strategy under review

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The nation's top general acknowledged Thursday that the U.S. strategy in Iraq is under review. But he insisted it was part of an ongoing process.

With U.S. casualties in Iraq mounting to levels that may soon make October the deadliest month in two years, Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CNN the overall Iraq strategy is under review.

That includes the linchpin of U.S. exit strategy -- relying on Iraqi forces to take up the fight, Pace said.

"Are those assumptions still valid? If they are OK, then how are we doing in getting to where we are supposed to be going?," Pace said. "If we're getting there, how do we reinforce that? If we're not, what should we change?"

Pace's candid comments come a day after Gen. George Casey, the head of U.S. troops in Iraq, met with President Bush, whose Iraq policy is being questioned by key members of his own party and a day after the Army's chief of staff told CNN U.S. troop levels will remain in Iraq through 2010.

Meanwhile, the chief of the British Army Thursday called for a pullout of British troops from Iraq "sometime soon" and said that post-invasion planning for that war was "poor, probably based more on optimism than sound planning."

Gen. Richard Dannatt told London's Daily Mail newspaper that Britain's continued presence in Iraq has made the country less secure and he has "more optimism" that "we can get it right in Afghanistan."(Full story)

Britain should "get ourselves out sometime soon because our presence exacerbates security problems," he told the newspaper in an interview published Thursday.

Dannatt, who took over as the Army's chief of general staff in August, said that the U.S.-led coalition's plan to establish a democracy in Iraq that would be "exemplar for the region" was unlikely to happen.

"That was the hope, whether that was a sensible or naive hope, history will judge," he said. "I don't think we are going to do that. I think we should aim for a lower ambition."

Dannatt's views directly contradict the position of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is a staunch supporter of the war and President Bush's closest ally in the fight. Blair and Bush both insist that troops must stay in Iraq until Iraqi security forces are able to stand up on their own.

In a news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House Wednesday Bush reiterated his opposition to what he called a "cut and run," from Iraq. The president addressed Republican Sen. John Warner's recent return from his eighth trip to Iraq. Warner, the Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman, told reporters that the "situation [in Iraq] is simply drifting sideways."

"I appreciate Senator Warner going over there and taking a look," Bush told reporters. "I want you to notice what he did say is: 'If the plan is now not working, the plan that's in place isn't working, America needs to adjust.' I completely agree."

"But one of the things I'd remind you of is that I don't hear those people saying: 'Get out before the job is done.' They're saying: 'Be flexible.' And we are," Bush said. "I believe that, you know, you empower your generals to make the decisions -- the recommendations on what we do to win."

The president went on to describe life in the Middle East, saying "The stakes couldn't be any higher."

"They want to extend an ideological caliphate that has no concept of liberty inherent in their beliefs," he said.(Watch Bush dispute criticism of U.S. action in Iraq -- 1:51)

But with Iraq edging nearer to civil war -- if not already immersed in it -- Dannatt said that the strategy for implementing an Iraqi democracy was ill-prepared.

"I think history will show that the planning for what happened after the initial, successful war-fighting phase was poor, probably based more on optimism than sound planning," he said.

Britain has overstayed its welcome in Muslim Iraq, he insisted. "The military campaign we fought in 2003 effectively kicked the door in," Dannatt said, noting that was a far cry from being invited into the country. "Whatever consent we may have had in the first place may have turned to tolerance and has largely turned to intolerance."

CNN Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre contributed to this report

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Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the U.S. is reviewing its strategy for Iraq.

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