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The US is expected to pull significant numbers of troops out of Iraq in the next 12 months in spite of the continuing violence, according to the general responsible for near-term planning in the country.
Maj Gen Douglas Lute, director of operations at US Central Command, yesterday said the reductions were part of a push by Gen John Abizaid, commander of all US troops in the region, to put the burden of defending Iraq on Iraqi forces.
He denied the withdrawal was motivated by political pressure from Washington.
He said: “We believe at some point, in order to break this dependence on the . . . coalition, you simply have to back off and let the Iraqis step forward.
“You have to undercut the perception of occupation in Iraq. It's very difficult to do that when you have 150,000-plus, largely western, foreign troops occupying the country.”
But Maj Gen Lute's comments the first to detail extensively the reasons behind such a reduction give credence to reports that Gen Abizaid hopes to hand over to Iraqi forces within the next year large parts of the 14 Iraqi provinces that have remained relatively peaceful.
Maj Gen Lute, who is responsible for the Centcom's plans over the next 12-18 months, said military officials expected troop reductions to occur most rapidly outside the Sunni Triangle.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Pentagon has ordered 1,500 paratroopers to Iraq to provide security in advance of two upcoming national votes, the military announced Wednesday.
Two infantry battalions from the 82nd Airborne Division will deploy to Iraq before the scheduled Oct. 15 referendum on the proposed constitution, and remain through the December national elections, the Pentagon said in a statement.
They are expected to depart the United States in mid-September and will remain in Iraq for 120 days, officials said.
The battalions will be the 2nd Battalion of the 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, the "White Falcons," and the 3rd Battalion of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, the "Blue Devils," according to a draft of an 82nd Airborne press release provided to the AP.