Two divisions of international troops will begin moving into Iraq by the end of this month to help relieve the nearly 150,000 American troops now working to stabilize the country, Pentagon officials said yesterday.
Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the international troops — up to 20,000 of them — are “gearing up” to go to Iraq.
One division will be led by the United Kingdom and the other by Poland, and there is a potential for a third division, he said.
“The flow would start in probably July, August and probably finish out in September,” Gen. Myers told reporters.
Gen. Myers said “five or six countries or more” will add troops to the divisions. A third international peacekeeping division could be led by India, defense officials said.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the foreign troops would reduce the burden on the U.S. military.
“The more that are there, the fewer of U.S. troops we have to have,” Mr. Rumsfeld said. “So we won’t know precisely what [Central Command is] going to want … whether they like what they have or they want fewer or more.
“But whatever it is, we will fill in with as many international forces as we can, and we will then be able to rotate some of our forces out and give them a rest.”
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told Congress last month that Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Denmark, Ukraine and Hungary have said they would take part in an international force in Iraq.
Mr. Rumsfeld, who met reporters with Gen. Myers yesterday, said 70 nations were asked to contribute forces to stabilization forces. He said four nations are already involved inside Iraq and another six have agreed to join.
Negotiations and discussions are taking place with 14 other nations that might participate and another 15 to 20 nations have said they are willing to discuss sending forces, Mr. Rumsfeld said.
“We have been working for weeks to bring in additional countries’ forces into Iraq,” Mr. Rumsfeld said.
Almost 150,000 U.S. troops are in Iraq, along with slightly more than 12,000 British troops.