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THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ

U.S. Force in Iraq Grows to 140,000

September 01, 2006|From Reuters

WASHINGTON — The United States has expanded its force in Iraq to 140,000 troops, the most since January and 13,000 more than five weeks ago, the Pentagon said Thursday.

The move follows a July decision by commanders to boost the U.S. military presence in Baghdad to try to curb the sectarian violence that has heightened concern about a civil war.

The arrival of fresh troops as part of a routine rotation of U.S. forces also has contributed to the increase because some of the troops they are replacing have yet to leave, officials said.

Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a military spokesman in Iraq, said about 15,000 U.S. troops were in Baghdad.

Recent Pentagon moves, including the July 27 decision to delay for up to four months the departure of about 4,000 soldiers with an Alaska-based brigade, indicate that significant U.S. troop cuts are unlikely in the near future.

As recently as June, when the U.S. force stood at 125,000 with 14 combat brigades, Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top U.S. commander in Iraq, offered a plan to pull out two brigades -- with about 3,500 troops each -- by the fall, with perhaps two more removed by December. His proposal envisioned the U.S. force shrinking to five or six combat brigades by December 2007.

A Pentagon official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. force probably would remain the same in the coming months, but could shrink a bit by the end of the year.

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