- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 2, 2004

The United States will increase the number of its troops in Iraq to the highest level since the war began in March 2003 to bolster security before elections Jan. 30, the Defense Department said yesterday.

The number of U.S. troops will rise from 138,000 to about 150,000 this month, and the expanded deployment will continue until March. It will involve sending about 1,500 troops and extending the tours of duty of about 10,400 troops, including 2,300 dispatched from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit based in Okinawa, the Pentagon said.

The previous high was 148,000 troops in May 2003, when President Bush declared the end to major combat operations in Iraq.

Washington had planned to train and equip interim Iraqi government forces to improve security for the elections, but the plan failed to proceed as expected.

The Bush administration has faced pressure from both the majority Republicans and Democrats in Congress to increase troop numbers to deal with increasing militia attacks and deteriorating conditions.

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