U.S. Special Forces staying in Iraq

April 2, 2010 at 12:13 PM
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WASHINGTON, April 2 (UPI) -- The number of U.S. Special Forces personnel in Iraq will remain static following an August drawdown date for combat troops, military leaders said in Washington.

U.S. Navy Adm. Eric Olson, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command, told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, that his forces would stay active in Iraq.

"The special operations forces are not experiencing a drawdown in Iraq," he said. "Supporting them is a continuing mission of the rest of the force."

Iraqi political slates are in the process of forming alliances to pull together a new government following March 7 parliamentary elections. It could take several months for a national government to develop, though it is largely expected to take place before the holy month of Ramadan starts in August.

The numbers of U.S. forces are expected to drop from about 98,000 troops to 50,000 by the end of August.

Olson said the 4,500 Special Forces personnel, however, would stay behind.

"All indications, including my conversations with (Army Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command, and Army Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq) is that the special operations forces will be sustained at about their current level," he said.

Topics: Eric Olson
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