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Troop levels likely to stay up into fall

By TIMES WIRES
Published March 29, 2007


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U.S. commanders in Iraq won't know until at least autumn when they can begin to bring troop levels back down, the chief spokesman said Wednesday.

The overall U.S. commander, Gen. David Petraeus, will want to sustain the momentum that has been gained in the Baghdad security offensive by keeping five added Army combat brigades in place, Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said.

"I think it'll be fall before Gen. Petraeus can make a decision on whether he wants to bring down his force level," Caldwell said.

Meanwhile, Gen. Lance L. Smith, the general responsible for preparing forces for overseas deployment, said Army combat troops are likely to have to go back to Iraq with less than a year at home if the Bush administration decides to maintain higher force levels through early next year.

Smith added that units due to rotate out of Iraq also would probably have to be extended.

Until now, the Army has tried to keep to 12-month home rotations, to give soldiers time for training and rest and to relieve strains on their families.

Smith also said he expects the total number of additional soldiers going to Iraq will likely increase.

Caldwell said the Baghdad offensive was starting to calm sections of Iraq's capital. Seizures of arms caches and death squad leaders, for instance, are on the rise, and Caldwell said there were signs that Iraqis' deep pessimism had bottomed out.

"This is the first time I've been optimistic about the situation in Baghdad and therefore Iraq," Caldwell said.

Information from the Associated Press and New York Times was used in this report.

Fast Facts:

What others said

- President Bush and the Democratic-controlled Congress lurched toward a veto showdown over Iraq on Wednesday, the commander in chief demanding a replenishment of war funding with no strings and Speaker Nancy Pelosi counseling him, "Calm down with the threats."

- King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia denounced the American military presence in Iraq on Wednesday as an "illegitimate foreign occupation" and called on the West to end its financial embargo against the Palestinians. He also told Arab leaders that their divisions had helped fuel turmoil across the Middle East. His speech came during a two-day summit of Arab leaders to revive a 2002 initiative offering Israel peace with the Arab world if it withdraws from lands it seized in the 1967 Mideast War.

[Last modified March 29, 2007, 02:05:01]


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