'140,000 US troops to stay in Iraq'

The US troop presence in Iraq will remain bigger than it was before last year's "surge" in forces, even after the pull-out of some 20,000 troops by July, a top Pentagon official said Monday.

'140,000 US troops to stay in Iraq'
"In Iraq we are now projecting approximately 140,000 troops there in July," General Carter Ham, operations director of the Joint Staff, told reporters. He had earlier said that 8,000 support forces and trainers will need to stay on.

"It is, by the end of July, bigger than when we started the surge" in January 2007.

About 132,000 troops were in place when President George W. Bush ordered an increase in US forces in Iraq.

"There is a full expectation that further reductions will occur" in troop levels, Ham said, but it was "premature" to talk about "timing and pace" of this further drawdown.

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

Petraeus is expected to make recommendations by April on whether further cuts can be made after the drawdown of five combat brigades -- about 20,000 troops -- is completed in July.

Ham also said the Pentagon wanted to reduce the length of US soldiers' tours of duty from 15 to 12 months, but would wait until the end of July to make a decision.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 26 Şubat 2008, 15:22