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WASHINGTON (AP) - Major reductions in U.S. troop levels in Iraq next year appear increasingly likely, although Pentagon officials said Monday it is too early to predict the specific size and timing.
The Pentagon is eager to pull some of its 135,000 troops out of Iraq in 2006, partly because the counterinsurgency is stretching the Army and Marine Corps perilously thin as casualties mount and partly because officials believe the presence of a large U.S. force is generating tacit support for anti-American violence.
It appears highly unlikely that any significant numbers will be withdrawn before the end of the year. U.S. commanders expect the insurgency to remain at or near its current strength at least until after a scheduled October referendum on a new Iraqi constitution, followed by December elections for a new government.