New commander requests delay in Iraq troop level report

Tuesday, July 8, 2003

WASHINGTON The U.S. Defense Department has delayed the release of a review of required troop levels in Iraq amid reports of mortar fire on U.S. troops and increased sabotage of the Iraqi infrastructure.

Officials said the study was delayed at the insistence of new Central Command chief Gen. John Abizaid to allow for review and revisions. The study is also expected to include a schedule for the rotation and ultimately reduction of U.S. forces.

The United States has about 150,000 troops in Iraq and another 80,000 in the Gulf and surrounding region. The Pentagon plans to increase the troop presence in Iraq to about 165,00.

The U.S.-led coalition has also obtained the support of several allies and will establish at least two international divisions, Middle East Newsline reported. One division would be commanded by Poland and the other by Britain. A third multi-national force is also being discussed.

The review is being drafted by U.S. Central Command, which has changed commanders. The study will assess the required size and composition of the U.S.-led coalition force to stabilize Iraq.

"It's not time to send in additional troops," Abiziad's predecessor, Gen. Tommy Franks, said in an interview with ABC television.

Officials said a priority of the Pentagon is to withdraw troops from the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division. Nearly 10,000 troops from the division have been deployed in the region for more than six months and their departure from Iraq has been delayed since May.

Officials said the review was meant to have been relayed by the Pentagon to Congress last week. They now said the study will not be ready until the third week of July.

Sunni insurgents, officials said, have intensified efforts to destroy Iraqi infrastructure in attempts to reconstruct the country. They said insurgency targets are Iraqi oil and electricity power grids.

"We do see increasing sabotage over the last few weeks," Andrew Bearpark, a senior official in the U.S.-led administrator for Iraq, told a briefing on Monday in a teleconference from Baghdad. "I haven't seen any increase over the last few days. We are talking about hundreds and hundreds of miles of power cables, hundreds and hundreds of miles of pipelines and all of the associated facilities. There just aren't enough tanks in the world to put one tank on every electricity pylon."

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