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Iraq Force Level Assessment Is Likely, Di Rita Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 12, 2005 – The senior U.S. military commander in Iraq will likely conduct a force-level assessment sometime after the Dec. 15 elections, a senior defense department official said here today.

However, chief DoD spokesman Lawrence Di Rita cautioned Pentagon reporters that Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of Multinational Force Iraq, may not provide a recommendation for Iraq force-level changes along with his assessment.

"I would expect fully that he'll come back and give an assessment of where he thinks he is," Di Rita said. "I don't know - I simply don't - whether that will include his recommendation on the way ahead."

There is no timeline emanating from the Pentagon, Di Rita emphasized, to influence Casey to make any recommendations.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's plan to reduce U.S. forces in Iraq to about 138,000 troops from around 160,000 now in country, Di Rita said, is slated to begin sometime after the Iraqi election.

Any potential recommendation by Casey that would affect U.S. force levels in Iraq, Di Rita said, would start from that 138,000 baseline.

U.S. force levels in Iraq are based on commanders' needs drawn from their interpretation of the situation on the ground, Di Rita said.

President Bush and the defense secretary have final say on any recommended force-level changes provided by military commanders, Di Rita said.

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