WASHINGTON, Nov. 26 (UPI) -- The pending return of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team to Fort Hood, Texas, marks the first reduction in U.S. combat forces in Iraq, the Defense Department said.
The 3rd Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division, scheduled to be redeployed Tuesday, will not be replaced, said Navy Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, a spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq in Baghdad.
About 162,000 troops are in Iraq in 20 brigade trams or their Marine equivalent, the department said in a news release. The number of brigades is expected to drop to 15 brigade combat teams during the next eight months.
"Current conditions allow for a withdrawal of the first unit," Smith said in a Defense Department news release. "If conditions continue to permit, a total of five brigade combat teams will be redeployed over the next eight months."
The redeployment demonstrates the coalition's confidence in Iraqi security forces and reflects the overall improved security in the country, Smith said.
Coalition and Iraqi forces will be redeployed to the Diyala province, where the brigade was stationed, Smith said, explaining the "overall force levels and combat capability levels in Diyala will be tailored to meet emerging threats."