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Classified plan: 20K-30K troops out next spring

U.S. could cut Iraq troops by 20,000-30,000-NY Times. Keep dreaming, Pentagon. There aren’t enough trained Iraqi forces to contain the chaos, let alone reduce the mess Chimpy wants to bail out on.

The top U.S. Middle East commander has outlined a plan that would reduce U.S. forces in Iraq by some 20,000 to 30,000 by next spring, The New York Times reported in Sunday editions. Citing three senior military officers and Defense Department officials, The Times said that the assessment by Gen. John Abizaid, the head of the military’s Central Command, was contained in a classified briefing given to senior Pentagon officials last month.

The plan was in line with Gen. George Casey’s remarks in a briefing late last month with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that Washington hoped to reduce U.S. forces in Iraq sharply within the next year.

“I do believe that if the political process continues to go positively, if the developments with the (Iraqi) security forces continue to go as it is going, I do believe we will still be able to make fairly substantial reductions after these elections — in the spring and summer of next year,” Casey, the U.S. commander in Iraq, told Rumsfeld on July 27.

However, Abizaid added the caveat in his assessment that it was possible that the Pentagon might have to keep the current levels of some 138,000 U.S. soldiers in Iraq through 2006 if security and political trends do not favor a withdrawal, The Times said. President Bush has consistently refused to set a date for withdrawal from Iraq, reiterating on Wednesday that the timetable, “depends on our ability to train the Iraqis, to get the Iraqis ready to fight.”

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding