U.S. has reduced miliary presence in Iraq by 20,000 since war's end

Friday, September 19, 2003

The United States has reduced its military force level in Iraq.

U.S. officials said that over the last four months the military has withdrawn about 20,000 troops from Iraq. They said the American soldiers have been replaced by a new international division led by Poland.

Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the U.S. force level in Iraq has been reduced from 150,000 at the end of the war in Iraq in June to the current 130,000. Pace said the number of soldiers from U.S. allies in Iraq has risen from 12,000 to 24,000.

The biggest increase in the number of non-U.S. troops in Iraq has been that of the newly-reconstituted Iraqi military, police and civil defense forces, Middle East Newsline reported. Officials said 32 countries have contributed forces to the Iraq region. They said an additional 14 countries are discussing sending troops.

Pace said about 60,000 Iraqis have begun conducting security missions in Iraq with another 10,000 undergoing training.

"The bottom line is the numbers of individuals providing security in Iraq is increasing day by day by day, and the proportion of that that is coalition," Pace told a Defense Department briefing on Tuesday. "And the proportion of that that is Iraqi is increasing dramatically."

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the United States wants to organize another international division of up to 15,000 troops. Rumsfeld said a United Nations resolution on Iraq could help persuade countries to contribute to the effort.

But the defense secretary stressed that the expansion of the Iraqi and international force would not immediately lead to a further reduction of U.S. troops. Rumsfeld said the chief consideration would be the security situation in Iraq.

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"They're [U.S. troops] currently doing things other than the toughest activities," Rumsfeld said. "So as you replace them with forces that may have somewhat less training or less equipment, you can assign those forces to the activities that require less training and less equipment."

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