April Briefing Set on U.S. Troops in Iraq
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
And, Guy, people were talking about getting down to about 100,000 troops by the end of 2008. Why is that not going to happen now?
GUY RAZ: What he was saying at that time, was if the situations stabilized we could, essentially, reach a figure that translates roughly to about 100,000 if you include all of the support and logistics units. But that possibility is really becoming increasingly unlikely.
INSKEEP: What is it that Pentagon officials are thinking about now?
RAZ: Let's take a listen.
GEORGE W: My attitude is if he didn't want to continue the drawdown, that's fine with me, in order to make sure we succeed. See? I said to the general if it's - if you want to slow her down, fine, it's up to you.
INSKEEP: Okay. So the president says you don't have to take out extra troops. Let's say that Petraeus thinks that he can, that the situation has improved. Would that actually lead to a drawdown in troops?
RAZ: Well, that's a possibility, you know. And while there are certainly politicians in Washington who are describing the situation in Iraq as a success, you know, very few commanders in Iraq are prepared to go that far. They're far more cautious. And over the weekend, General Petraeus was asked about this issue, and he made it pretty clear that he's going to hold off on making any decisions on further reductions once this initial drawdown ends in July. He spoke on CNN on Sunday.
DAVID PETRAEUS: We will, though, need some time to let things settle a bit, if you will, after we complete the withdrawal of what will be over one quarter of our combat power, one quarter of what we had during the height of the surge.
INSKEEP: Okay. One quarter of their combat power. In other words, the combat brigades, the guys who are actually fighting, will be going away, he says, over the coming months. And then, they'll pause and see where things stand. Where will the overall number of troops be then at that point?
RAZ: So there's a very likely possibility that there will be more troops in Iraq in January 2009 than there were just before the surge.
INSKEEP: Guy, thanks very much.
RAZ: Thank you.
INSKEEP: That's NPR Pentagon correspondent Guy Raz.
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