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Rumsfeld taps 92,000 GIs for Iraq rotation
Updated: 2005-11-08 23:46

The Pentagon announced Monday that more than 92,000 troops will be in the next rotation of U.S. forces in Iraq, and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said its exact size will not be decided until after the Dec. 15 election of a new Iraqi government.

In this picture released by the US Forces Monday, Nov. 7, 2005, US Soldiers of the 1/10th Mountain Divisions 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment unfold barbed wire as they assist Iraqi Army in a hand out of food supplies in Abu Ghraib, Iraq, Wednesday, Nov.2, 2005. U.S. and Iraqi troops battled insurgents house-to-house on Monday, the third day of an assault against al-Qaida-led insurgents in a town near the Syrian border. The U.S. command reported the first American death in the operation. [AP]

The Pentagon said it has identified some of the major combat units that will deploy, starting in mid-2006 as part of a rotation that will run through mid-2008, including a National Guard brigade from Minnesota.

It said the identified units will total about 92,000 troops, but Rumsfeld said that should not be taken as the final figure. The usual troop level this year has been about 138,000, although that has been strengthened to about 160,000 this fall out of concern for extra violence during voting in October and December.

The number of troops in future rotations will depend on conditions, including the severity of the insurgency and the strength of Iraqi security forces, as well as the recommendations of U.S. commanders, Rumsfeld said.

"We know we're going to bulk up for the elections, and we know we're going to go back down to some level after the elections," Rumsfeld said in a telephone call to The Associated Press. During the call, Rumsfeld complained that an AP report gave the mistaken impression that the Pentagon has already decided to reduce troop levels below 138,000 next year.

Separately, a senior Army general said there is a growing momentum in the training of Iraqi security forces, which now total about 100,000 army soldiers and about 111,000 police forces. In a detailed briefing before a group organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank, Lt. Gen. David Petraeus said the goal is to have a combined total of 230,000 army and police by the December election.

Petraeus left Iraq last summer after a year in command of training programs for the Iraqi security forces. His briefing charts said training and equipping of the Iraqi army should be done by January 2007, and by March 2007 for the Iraqi police services. The total number of forces is to reach 325,000 by July 2007.

The Pentagon hopes to be able to reduce U.S. troop levels as Iraqi security forces become more capable of defending their own country, but it is unclear when that point will be reached.

Officials also disclosed that U.S. commanders in Iraq decided they would not need one brigade — normally numbering about 3,500 soldiers, until early next year. It had been scheduled to deploy to Iraq before the Dec. 15 election. That unit, the 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, based at Fort Riley, Kan., will deploy after the election instead.
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