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Pentagon recommends holding US troops levels in Iraq steady until February

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The Pentagon is recommending that the United States retain its current troop levels in Iraq until next February, when the military would begin redirecting soldiers to Afghanistan. The New York Times reports that the confidential recommendation is a compromise between the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who want to increase America's presence in Afghanistan, and Gen. David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq.

The number of American combat brigades in Iraq would shrink to 14 in February from 15, according to the recommendation. All told, the number of American forces in Iraq, currently about 146,000, would drop by nearly 8,000 by March.
The reduction is smaller than some officials had earlier suggested might be possible before President Bush leaves office in January, given the significant decline in violence in Iraq. But it reflects the caution of Gen. David H. Petraeus, who is leaving his post as the senior American commander in Iraq this month, about the still-unsettled situation in Iraq.

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