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US To Keep 160,000 Troops In Iraq Through December Vote: Officials

Washington (AFP) Nov 03, 2005
The US military will keep about 160,000 troops in Iraq through national elections in December and then decide how far US force levels in the country can be reduced, senior Pentagon officials said Thursday.

The top US commanders in the region -- General John Abizaid and General George Casey -- will review conditions in Iraq after the December 15 elections for a new national assembly, they said.

"Right now, we're just short of 160,000," said Lieutenant General James Conway, director of operations of the Joint Staff. "That's sort of the baseline figure that we think we'll probably see all through the election period."

"If it goes as well as previous elections have -- and we have every reason to believe that it will -- then I think probably ... we'll see the commanders, General Casey and General Abizaid, reaching decision points on future forces in Iraq," he said.

Lawrence DiRita, the chief Pentagon spokesman, said no decision has been made on whether force levels will fall to 138,000, which has been the baseline for US forces over the past year, or to some other level.

Casey has said in the past that he believes it will be possible to make fairly substantial reductions in US forces next year if the development of Iraqi security forces stays on track and political milestones are met.

The December vote is the last big step toward forming a constitutional government in Iraq.

Conway said 210,000 Iraqi security forces have now been trained and equipped.

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Pentagon Stepping Up Efforts To Combat Roadside Bombs In Iraq: General
Washington (AFP) Nov 03, 2005
The Pentagon is considering putting a three-star general in charge of stepped-up efforts to combat insurgent bombings in Iraq, senior defense officials said Thursday.

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