February 15, 2008

The US “surge” is likely to end in July with more troops in Iraq than the 132,000 that were there before five extra combat brigades were sent in more than a year ago, a senior Pentagon official said.

Lieutenant General Carter Ham said that support forces and trainers that went in with the surge will still be needed to back up Iraq’s expanding security forces after the last of the extra combat brigades leaves.

“It’s likely that the number will be a little bit larger than the 132,000 or so that was the number of personnel on the ground pre-surge,” said Ham, who is the operations director of the Joint Staff.

About 8,000 support troops were deployed to Iraq as part of the surge.

Ham would not say whether 140,000 troops would be the upper limit of the post-surge US force.

“I wouldn’t want to bound it just yet. I think let’s let the commanders make that assessment,” he said.

It was the latest sign that General David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq, intends to keep as large a US force as possible in the country to keep a lid on the violence, while Iraqi security forces assume responsibility for more territory in the country.

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