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U.S. to pull out up to 30,000 troops from Iraq- NYT

Al Jazeera | August 7, 2005

The top U.S. Middle East commander has revealed that the U.S. plans to reduce its forces in Iraq by some 20,000 to 30,000 by next spring, The New York Times reported on Sunday.

The assessment by the head of the Central Command, General John Abizaid, follows another statement made by the top American general in Iraq last month, saying that the Pentagon could make "some fairly substantial reductions" in troops by next spring, the paper said, citing unnamed senior military officers and Defense Department officials.

General George Casey said that the U.S. military may reduce its forces if the Iraqi forces became ready to assume more responsibility for securing the country.

"I do believe that if the political process continues to go positively, if the developments with the (Iraqi) security forces continue to go as it is going, I do believe we will still be able to make fairly substantial reductions after these elections -- in the spring and summer of next year," Casey told the U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on July 27.

But Abizaid stated that the Pentagon might keep the current levels of some 138,000 U.S. soldiers in Iraq through 2006 "if security and political trends are unfavorable for a withdrawal", the paper added.

The American President George W. Bush has repeatedly refused to set a timetable for the withdrawal of the U.S. forces from Iraq. On Wednesday he said that a timetable "depends on our ability to train the Iraqis, to get the Iraqis ready to fight."

"General Abizaid has consistently understood that if conditions on the ground warrant it, a smaller coalition footprint could bolster self-government in Iraq," said Lawrence Di Rita, the chief Pentagon spokesman.

However, The Times said that the number of the U.S. troops will increase temporarily to provide security for elections to a new National Assembly, scheduled to be held in December 15.



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