Washington, D.C. The Pentagon is preparing to order roughly 30,000 troops to Iraq early next year in a move that would allow the U.S. to maintain 15 combat brigades in the country through 2009, The Associated Press has learned.
The deployments would replace troops currently there. But the decisions could change depending on whether Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, decides in the fall to further reduce troop levels in Iraq.
Several officials familiar with the deployments spoke on condition of anonymity because the orders have not yet been made public.
According to the officials, three active-duty Army brigade combat teams, one Army National Guard brigade and two Marine regimental combat teams are being notified that they are being sent to Iraq in early 2009. Officials would not release the specific units involved because the soldiers and Marines and their families have not all been told.
Overall, there are about 146,000 forces in Iraq, and that number is expected to dip to about 142,000 by mid-July when that last unit is all out. That total is at least 7,000 more than the number of troops in Iraq before the buildup began early last year.