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Iraq withdrawal to begin in March: US commander

A top US military commander said US troop reductions in Iraq are likely to begin in March 2006.

india Updated: Dec 30, 2005 11:21 IST

A top US military commander said US troop reductions in Iraq are likely to begin in March 2006.

The expected troop reductions would depend on an assessment of the current situation in Iraq and the readiness of the Iraqi armed forces and police to take over, said General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, while talking to reporters at a press conference at the 5th Fleet Command in Bahrain.

"We had 160,000 troops in Iraq during the elections, and around March they will drop to the baseline of 138,000," he said.

Pace added that more reductions were likely during the course of next year as more Iraqi forces become available.

"Many of the Iraqi forces are ready to take over the responsibility. There is one division, four brigades, and over 30 battalions that are responsible for their own areas. One third of Baghdad is completely controlled by Iraqi forces as well as parts of the countryside," he said.

The general, who took over as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs in September, is on a weeklong visit to US troops in the Gulf.

Pace also reiterated that US had no plans to attack Iran over its controversial nuclear programme, saying diplomacy was the appropriate solution.

"Leaders of the world are discussing the matter with the Iranian government to get them to be responsible in what they do," he said.

First Published: Dec 30, 2005 11:21 IST