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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 October, 2004, 03:00 GMT 04:00 UK
Pentagon mulls Iraq troop boost
By Nick Childs
BBC Pentagon correspondent

US armour outside Falluja on 16 October
The US forces may be further stretched in the run-up to elections
Pentagon officials have confirmed that they are looking at possibly boosting US troop numbers in Iraq.

The extra forces would provide extra security in the run up to the Iraqi election, scheduled for January.

Currently, there are around 138,000 US troops in Iraq - some divisions might stay longer and the deployment of others be speeded up.

Officials insist no decisions have been made, and may not be - until well after next week's US election.

He The man in over all charge of the Iraq mission, General John Abizaid, has already said he expects there will be a need for increased security forces in the run-up to the January elections.

In the first instance, the Americans hope they will be Iraqi.

But Pentagon officials confirm that they are looking at possibly asking some of the experienced US units currently in Iraq, like the First Cavalry and the First Infantry divisions to stay on beyond they current planned mission to help boost troop numbers temporarily.

The deployment of new forces, like the Third Infantry division, could also be speeded up.

Certainly, few people in the Pentagon expect the level of violence to diminish between now and January, and many think it will increase.

Clearly, asking troops to stay on longer in Iraq would be a sensitive move.

Asking troops to stay longer is a sensitive issue

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