U.S. Troops in Iraq Decrease to Last Summer's Level
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 25, 2006 The number of U.S. troops serving in Iraq has decreased to around 138,000, which was the level deployed there last summer, a Defense Department military spokesman said here today.
"We have come back down to the troop level that we were at back in the summer of '05," said Army Lt. Col. Barry Venable.
U.S. troop levels in Iraq were temporarily boosted last year from around 138,000 to about 160,000 troops to provide extra security for the Oct. 15 constitutional referendum and the Dec. 15 nationwide elections.
Those extra troops "have cycled out and we're now back down to what was the former baseline level," Venable said. U.S. force levels in Iraq, he said, can fluctuate on a daily basis.
And DoD's recent decision not to deploy two more Army brigades - about 7,000 soldiers - to Iraq as previously planned, Venable said, could result in a further troop reduction. That decision, according to a DoD news release, was based on the demonstrated capabilities of Iraqi forces in providing security for the Dec. 15 election.
Also, the old 138,000-troop baseline for U.S. troops in Iraq has changed, Venable said.
"That paradigm no longer holds true," he noted, "because from this point forward what you will see is a continuous, ongoing assessment of conditions in Iraq and that will drive General Casey's recommendations for the number of troops he needs." Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr. is the top U.S. troop commander in Iraq.
Venable said more U.S. troop reductions in Iraq are possible if the security situation there improves. And "there may be an increase, if required," he said.