American forces are not winning the war in Iraq, U.S. President GeorgeW.Bush said Tuesday for the first time.

However, in an interview with the Washington Post, Bush refused to say the U.S. was losing the war. Instead, heborrowed the phrasing of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Peter Pace

"You know, I think an interesting construct that Gen. Pace uses is, 'We're not winning, we're not losing.' There's been some very positive developments. And you take a step back and look at progress in Iraq, you say, well, it's amazing— constitutional democracy in the heart of the Middle East, which is a remarkable development in itself," he said.

Bush also indicated he agreed with officials in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill who say the military is stretched too thin to deal, andsaid he plans to expand the size of the U.S. military to deal with the globalwar against Islamist extremists

"I'm inclined to believe that we do need to increase our troops— the army, the marines," Bush toldthe Post in an Oval Office interview. "And I talked about this to [Defence]Secretary [Robert] Gates and he is going to spend some time talking to the folks in the building, come back with a recommendation to me about how to proceed forward on this idea."

Bush did not say how many troops might be added.

He said he disagreed with former secretary of state Colin Powell's statement on CBS' Face the Nation Sunday that "the active army is about broken."

"I haven't heard the word 'broken,' " the president said, "but I've heard the word, 'stressed'.…We need to reset our military. There's no question the military has been used a lot. And the fundamental question is: Will Republicans and Democrats be able to work with the administration to assure our military and the American people that we will position our military so that it is ready and able to stay engaged in a long war?"

Broader war

Bush said the decision to expand the military was a response to thebroader war against Islamist extremists, and not specifically Iraq.

"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, which he is expected to announce next month. He said he was waiting for Gates to return from his expected trip to Iraq to get a firsthand look at the situation.

"I need to talk to him when he gets back," the president said. "I've got more consultations to do with the national security team, which will be consulting with other folks. And I'm going to take my time to make sure that the policy, when it comes out, the American people will see that we … have got a new way forward."

But Bush has been considering a plan tosend up to 30,000 or more troops to Iraq for six to eight months in an effort to secure Baghdad, where sectarian violence has climbed to record levels.

Some top generals, includingthe Joint Chiefs of Staff, have reportedly rejected the idea of a "surge," saying it wouldbe ineffective and could lead to more attacks from al-Qaeda.

With files from the Associated Press