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US troop reduction in Iraq 'on schedule'
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A plan to reduce US troops in Iraq from 158,000 currently to about 100,000 by the end of 2008 is still on schedule, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday at a press conference.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates (L) accompanied by Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Gen. James Cartwright, takes part in a news conference at the Pentagon, Friday, Dec. 21, 2007.

However, he emphasized that many developments could affect that plan, and he left open the possibility that the United States may need to add troops in Afghanistan.

Current Pentagon plan calls for reducing the 20 combat brigades in Iraq to 15 by next summer, which would leave roughly 130,000 American troops there.

Gates said the brigades could be pared to 10 by the end of 2008,if the security conditions keep improving.

In that case, the United States will leave about 100,000 troops in place.

Gates also said Congress' decision to approve only 70 billion dollars for combat operations before ending the work of the year, means the Pentagon "will again face the risk of running out of money."

The Bush administration recently took credit from the reducing level of violence in Iraq, but is still careful about how the situation there will evolve.

(Xinhua News Agency December 22, 2007)


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