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Pentagon recommends holding US troops levels in Iraq steady until February

Proposed February troop reduction would coincide with increase in troops sent to Afghanistan.

By / September 5, 2008



The Pentagon is recommending that the United States retain its current troop levels in Iraq until next February, when the military would begin redirecting soldiers to Afghanistan. The New York Times reports that the confidential recommendation is a compromise between the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who want to increase America's presence in Afghanistan, and Gen. David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq.

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The number of American combat brigades in Iraq would shrink to 14 in February from 15, according to the recommendation. All told, the number of American forces in Iraq, currently about 146,000, would drop by nearly 8,000 by March.
The reduction is smaller than some officials had earlier suggested might be possible before President Bush leaves office in January, given the significant decline in violence in Iraq. But it reflects the caution of Gen. David H. Petraeus, who is leaving his post as the senior American commander in Iraq this month, about the still-unsettled situation in Iraq.

The recommendation also calls for the redeployment of an Army brigade and a Marine battalion, totalling some 4,500 troops, to Afghanistan early next year, writes the Times. American commanders in Afghanistan have asked for three more combat brigades to be deployed to the country to fight the resurgent Taliban. The Los Angeles Times reports that the plan represents a hard-won compromise between Petraeus and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The Joint Chiefs had hoped for a sharper cut – of up to 10,000 troops – by the end of the year. Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, had pushed to keep 140,000 troops, or 15 combat brigades and support personnel, until next June. ...
Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secret ary, declined to discuss the specifics of the recommendation but said it bridged divisions among military leaders. "I can tell you that all these leaders are fundamentally in agreement on how we should proceed in Iraq," Morrell said in a statement. "They came to agreement after serious and lengthy discussions about the dramatic security gains in Iraq, the threats that still exist there and the uncertainties that remain."
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