US leaders sound hopeful on Iraq troop cuts
Updated: 2005-11-24 09:07
The Bush administration and military leaders are sounding optimistic notes
about scaling back U.S. troops in Iraq next year, as public opposition to the
war and congressional demands for withdrawal get louder.
Contingency plans for a phased withdrawal include proposals to further
postpone or cancel the deployment of a Fort Riley, Kan., brigade and an option
to put a combat brigade in nearby Kuwait in case it is needed, said a senior
In this picture released by the U.S. Marine
Corps, and made available Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2005, Albany, N.Y., native
Lance Cpl. Paul J. Kolkhorst, an antitank assaultmen, left, stands ready
to advance with the MarineS of Company I, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine
Regiment, Regimental Combat Team - 2 during Steel Curtain operation, in
Qaim, Iraq, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2005. [AP]
While military leaders would not confirm the size of possible withdrawals,
conversations with defense officials and analysts suggest troop levels could
drop below 100,000 next year, contingent on the progress of the Iraqi government
and its security forces. There are currently about 155,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.
The official, who asked not to be identified because plans are not final,
said stresses on the National Guard and Reserves are also factors.
On Wednesday, Pentagon officials would not confirm any reduction plans.
Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said there has been "very positive"
development of Iraqi security forces, and he added that "we plan for every
possible contingency," including a smaller coalition force.
President Bush has refused to set a withdrawal timetable, and the
administration has consistently said U.S. troops will remain as long as needed.
Led by Vice President Dick Cheney, the administration has strongly opposed last
week's call by Rep. John Murtha (news, bio, voting record), D-Pa., for a U.S.
withdrawal within six months.
Public support for the war has fallen in recent weeks, fed by events such as
the 2,000th U.S. military death there and allegations of the secret imprisonment
and torture of some Iraqi prisoners by the Iraqi government.
In recent days, some administration and military officials have made
positive-sounding comments about a possible withdrawal.
Lt. Gen. John Vines, chief of the Multi-National Corps-Iraq, said Iraqi
security forces ¡ª which number about 212,000 now ¡ª are making excellent
progress, an oft-cited precondition for removing U.S. troops. He said 36 Iraqi
battalions are responsible for their own areas of operation.