US force levels in Iraq swell to all-time high - Mercedes-Benz Forum

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US force levels in Iraq swell to all-time high

US force levels in Iraq swell to all-time high

US force levels in Iraq have grown to an all-time high of 168,000 troops, a senior Pentagon official said Thursday, as the US administration gears up to defend its surge strategy before Congress.
Major General Richard Sherlock, director of operational planning for the Joint Staff, said the higher number of troops was the result of overlapping troop deployments.

The total rose from 162,000 troops, the previous high of the nearly four and a half year old war.

"Force rotations are continuing, and we have approximately 168,000 US troops in Iraq that are conducting operations alongside Iraqi security forces, conducting reliefs in place and transfers of authority, and training Iraqi security forces," Sherlock said.

Sherlock said the arrival of more combat brigades will temporarily push the total to as high as 172,000 over the coming months before it falls back to about 160,000 troops by November or December as other units leave.

In the past, US troops rotations have been used to bulk up US ground forces during elections or other periods when higher levels of violence are expected.

This one comes as General David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker are preparing to testify before Congress next week on the results of the surge.

US military commanders in Iraq had warned of a possible spike in violence to influence the debate in Congress, but more recently have pointed to a decline in sectarian violence as evidence that the surge is working.

Commanders also are worried that violence will pick up again during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan which begins around September 12.

Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno, the number two commander in Iraq, said this week that what happens during Ramadan would be an important indicator in determining whether US forces can be reduced.

The surge refers to five combat brigades, or about 30,000 troops, that were added to a base US force of 15 combat brigades beginning in February to try to halt Iraq's slide toward civil war.

US force levels in Iraq swell to all-time high
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