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US to cut Iraq troop numbers to 140,000

There will be 140,000 US troops in Iraq by late July when the Bush administration's “surge plan” ends, a senior Pentagon official said Monday.

The number is an increase of 8,000 over the 132,000 US troops who were in Iraq in January 2007, immediately before the decision to “surge” additional five combat brigades and two Marine battalions with supporting forces into the country, Lt. Gen. Carter Ham, the Joint Staff's director for operations, told reporters at the Pentagon.

“It's bigger than when we started the surge, that's for sure,” Ham said of the predicted July 2008 troop level.

The figure is more than the 130,000 troops that many members of Congress had been expecting after the “surge.”

Nevertheless, Ham said all of the combat “surge” troops will be withdrawn by the end of July as scheduled.

The additional 8,000 troops, he said, include some of the support elements that came with the “surge” forces, as well as some “emerging requirements” that have developed since.

Ham also said there will be 32,000 US troops in Afghanistan by late summer this year, more than the 28,000 troops there now.

Asked whether that is an all-time high for forces in Afghanistan, he replied, “it is.”

However, Ham argued that both these force posture levels are “conditions-based.”

There are some 163,000 US troops in Iraq at the present. (Xinhua)