ELISABETH BUMILLER
The New York Times
July 29, 2009

[efoods]INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said on Wednesday that as many as 5,000 United States troops could come home from Iraq earlier than the Pentagon had planned because violence levels in the country were generally down and Iraqi security forces were doing well on their own.

Under the existing plan, two brigades, or about 10,000 troops, are to be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of 2009. Mr. Gates said it was now possible that an additional brigade, or 5,000 troops, would come home by that time.

Mr. Gates offered the assessment after meetings and dinner in Baghdad on Tuesday with Gen. Ray Odierno, the top American commander in Iraq. The defense secretary made his comments to reporters at a stop in Turkey on his way back to Washington.

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