- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 26, 2008

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Pentagon is projecting that when the U.S. troop buildup in Iraq ends in July there will be about 8,000 more troops in the country than when it began in January 2007, a senior general said yesterday.

Lt. Gen. Carter Ham, operations chief for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that by July the troop total is likely to be 140,000. That compares with 132,000 when President Bush approved orders to send an additional five Army brigades to Iraq to improve security and avert civil war.

Gen. Ham also announced that the Pentagon thinks U.S. force levels in Afghanistan will stand at 32,000 by late summer, up from about 28,000 currently. The present total is the highest since the war began in October 2001, and another 3,200 Marines are scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan this spring.

It had been widely expected that some support troops sent to Iraq with the five extra brigades would need to remain, even after July. But until now it was not clear what their number would be.

Gen. Ham stressed that his projected number of 140,000 is subject to change depending on security conditions, but it is the first time the Pentagon has publicly estimated a total.

In Iraq yesterday, a roadside bomb killed four Shi’ite pilgrims and injured 15 south of Baghdad in the third fatal attack on people traveling to one of their sect’s most sacred gatherings, officials said.

In all, police reported at least 25 persons were killed or found dead in violence nationwide yesterday.

The death toll from a suicide bombing Sunday rose to 56, making it one of Iraq’s deadliest attacks this year. It also wounded 68 persons.


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