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Austin: Surge draw down not hurting effort

June 6, 2008 at 10:44 AM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, June 6 (UPI) -- Withdrawing U.S. troops in Iraq to pre-surge levels hasn't hurt the war effort, the U.S. Army's No. 2 commander in Iraq says.

In fact, Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin III said the military could redeploy more troops later this year, The Washington Post reported Friday.

"We'd always like to have more force, but quite frankly I think we've demonstrated that we've been very effective with what we have," Austin told the Post.

Army Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, has asked that troop withdrawals from Iraq be indefinitely suspended after the last additional brigade leaves so that he can reassess the ground situation.

Four of five brigades sent to Iraq as part of the troop buildup ordered by President George Bush have been withdrawn. When the final brigade leaves by the end of July, about 140,000 troops will be left in Iraq.

Austin said it is "certainly possible" to withdraw more troops, given the improved security conditions in Iraq.

"But, again, I don't want to make a definitive statement right now and say we're going to draw down beyond what we're planning to draw down," he said. "We'll see what happens."

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