Troop Reductions: Beginning Now?

ByJonathan Karl

June 26, 2006 — -- The White House and Pentagon insist that no decisions have been made on troop reductions in Iraq, but ABC News has learned that two Army brigades that were packed and ready to go have been told it is likely they will not make the trip.

One group, including 3,500 soldiers from the third brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, N.C., was scheduled to leave later this summer, but they have now been told they'll probably stay home.

Another 3,500 soldiers from the third brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division in Fort Hood, Texas, have been told they will likely be going to Kuwait instead.

This could be the sign of a drawdown, as the last time troops were reduced it was achieved by not replacing outgoing soldiers from Iraq.

The potential reduction is part of the plan Gen. George Casey presented to President Bush last week regarding troop levels.

Pentagon sources say Casey told the president that if conditions improve there could be deeper cuts next year, reducing the number of combat troops by about half by the end of 2007.

A senior Pentagon official described the discussion of 2007 as "trying to look into a crystal ball" and noted "we're talking about the end of 2007. Casey isn't even going to be the commander at the beginning of 2007." Casey is expected to be replaced at the end of the year.

"There are too many variables to be able to talk with any certainty" about what troop cuts will be possible next year, the official said.

Senate Democrats responding to Casey's plan were furious today, saying it is virtually the same as their proposal, for which they were loudly criticized just last week.

"We were condemned and said to be cutting and running from our troops and from our responsibility," said Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill.

Discussions aside, the Pentagon has planned for major troop reductions in the past only to see those plans scrapped because of persistent violence, something that could derail these plans as well.

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