This way, the administration gets to play multiple cards: 1) "We're reducing troops!", 2) "But we're committed to staying", 3) "We had this planned all along", and 4) "We're sensitive to the needs of our troops and the concerns of the American people":
US mulls troop cuts in Iraq
by Will Dunham
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon plans to shrink the U.S. troop presence in Iraq, currently 155,000, to about 138,000 after the December 15 Iraqi elections and is considering dropping the number to about 100,000 next summer if conditions allow, defense officials said on Wednesday.
But officials said a variety of planning scenarios, including the possibility of no cut in troop levels, are being reviewed based on political and security conditions in Iraq and progress in developing U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces.
The officials stressed no decisions had been made. This comes amid intensifying debate in the U.S. Congress over whether U.S. troops should be withdrawn after 2-1/2 years of war in Iraq.
"The United States military looks at the full range of things that could occur in Iraq and makes plans accordingly, and makes plans for conditions that would lead to a smaller coalition force as well as conditions that would lead to a larger coalition force," said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman.
Whitman said the plan was to drop back to 138,000 troops, considered the recent baseline level for the U.S. force, following the December 15 elections in which Iraqis will select a new permanent government.
The Pentagon increased U.S. troop levels in Iraq ahead of the October 15 referendum in which Iraqis approved a constitution, and the U.S. force peaked in October at about 161,000, the highest level of the war. After temporarily dropping by several thousand troops, the size of the U.S. force again is rising to help provide security for the December 15 elections.