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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 October, 2003, 11:23 GMT 12:23 UK
Iraq security to affect troop cuts
By Nick Childs
BBC, Pentagon

The US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has refused to be drawn on whether the number of US forces in Iraq would be reduced next year.

Donald Rumsfeld
Rumsfeld repeated calls for foreign troop contributions
This follows a weekend newspaper report suggesting that there was a proposal to cut the number of troops by the middle of 2004.

"We are committed to staying as long as necessary with as many forces as necessary to successfully complete the mission," Mr Rumsfeld said.

He said plans to rotate the troops in Iraq had nothing to do with force reduction.

"It is important to emphasise that the rotations next year will not be driven by timelines for force reductions, but rather by the security situation on the ground in Iraq," Mr Rumsfeld said.


It is no secret that the Iraq mission is putting a considerable strain on the US army and on the morale of American troops.

The Pentagon would like to ease that burden.

But equally, top Pentagon officials are very sensitive about what they say on deployments.

There have been some mixed signals in recent months which provoked complaints from troops and their families.

US soldiers
There are 130,000 US soldiers in Iraq at present
The Washington Post newspaper reported a proposal to cut the number of US troops in Iraq from the current 130,000 to around a 100,000 by the middle of next year and to half of that number by 2005 if conditions are right.

The Pentagon's military leadership says it will be advising Mr Rumsfeld in the next two or three weeks on new call-ups of forces.

They will possibly include reservists which will be needed if some of the troops currently stationed in Iraq are to return home on schedule early next year.

Mr Rumsfeld has again said he would welcome additional foreign contributions.

But he also appeared to raise a question mark over whether Turkey, which has offered troops would eventually deploy them in part because of Iraqi opposition.

He said he did not know how the upcoming talks on that would proceed or whether they would ultimately find a method of deployment that would satisfy everybody.


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