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Defense Sec. Gates Says 5K More Troops Than Planned May Leave Iraq This Year

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates says as many as 5,000 U.S. troops may come home from Iraq earlier than planned, NPR's Mary Louise Kelly reports.

Mary Louise, among the reporters traveling with Gates today as he flew away from Irbil, Iraq, says Gates and top commanders believe that things have gone better than expected since U.S. combat forces withdrew from Iraqi cities last month — opening up the possibility for a faster-than-planned withdrawal of some forces.

As she says in her report, "the Pentagon was already planning to reduce its footprint in Iraq by two combat brigades" before the end of this year. Now, Gates and top commanders are considering the withdrawal of another brigade:

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As the Associated Press adds:

The United States has about 130,000 forces in Iraq, with current plans calling for most combat forces — or more than 100,000 troops — to remain in the country until after Iraqi national elections in January.

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