WASHINGTON (AFP) — US troop levels in Iraq are likely to remain steady for the rest of President George W. Bush's presidency, under war plans presented by his top Iraq commander.
Bush did not announce any decision on future troop levels after a closed-door meeting via video link Monday with General David Petraeus, who oversees US forces in Iraq, and the US ambassador to Baghdad Ryan Crocker.
They urged Bush to put off a decision on any further troop reductions "for a month or two" after the withdrawal of five brigades by July, to assess the situation, the New York Times said Tuesday, citing senior officials.
Military officials then want conditions in Iraq to be reviewed once a month, instead of every six months as previously done, to determine how many more brigades, if any, can be pulled out before Bush leaves office, the Times said.
The military is currently withdrawing five combat brigades sent into Iraq early last year -- the so-called "surge" force -- to be completed by July. That will bring troop levels down from about 158,000 to 140,000.
If Bush accepts the "pause," that means two or three more brigades at most could be withdrawn in 2008, leaving troop levels far above 100,000, the Times pointed out. It takes about 45 days to withdraw a combat brigade, it said.
Bush's successor will be sworn in on January 20, 2009.
The president's spokeswoman Monday said he was close to making a decision on future troop deployments in Iraq.
But spokeswoman Dana Perino noted: "I don't expect him to say anything prior to the testimony that Petraeus and Crocker will provide" to Congress on April 8 and 9.
Petraeus is expected to make more detailed recommendations on the pace and scope of the drawdown early next month in testimony to Congress.
Four US soldiers were killed in a roadside bomb in Baghdad Sunday, bringing the American military death toll in Iraq since the US-led invasion in March 2003 to 4,000.
Bush "obviously is grieved by the moment, but he mourns the loss of every single life from the very first that was lost in this conflict to the ones that are lost today," Perino said of the grim milestone.
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »