Sunday, May 27, 2007


U.S. may cut troop numbers in Iraq by 50 per cent next year

(Middle East Online) - The White House is working on what officials describe as several "concepts" for reducing the number of US combat troops in Iraq by as much as 50 percent next year, The New York Times reported on its website late Friday. Citing unnamed senior administration officials, the newspaper said the concepts could lower US troop levels in Iraq to roughly 100,000 by the time the 2008 US presidential election moves into high gear.
They would also greatly scale back the mission that President George W. Bush set for the US military when he ordered it in January to win back control of Baghdad and Anbar Province, the report said. The mission would instead focus on the training of Iraqi troops and fighting Al-Qaeda while removing Americans from many of the counter-insurgency efforts inside Baghdad.
But there is no indication that Bush is preparing to call an early end to the current troop increase, The Times said. And one reason officials are talking about their long-range strategy may be to blunt pressure from members of Congress, including some Republicans, who are pushing for a more rapid troop reduction, according to the report.
Proponents of reducing the troops and scaling back their mission next year appear to include Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, it said. They have been joined by generals at the Pentagon and elsewhere who have long been skeptical that the Iraqi government would use the opportunity created by the troop increase to reach genuine political accommodations.
The concepts have been developed without the involvement of the top commanders in Iraq, General David Petraeus and Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno, both of whom have been enthusiastic supporters of the troop increase, the paper said. In an interview in Baghdad on Thursday, General Odierno said any withdrawal of American troops was not advisable until December, "at a minimum," The Times said.
Even then, he said, redeployments should be carried out slowly, to avoid jeopardizing security gains. One of the ideas, according to officials cited in the report, would be to reduce the current 20 US combat brigades to about 10, a move which would be completed between the spring of 2008 and the end of the year.

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