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Time Monday: Rumsfeld approved order to deploy 15,000 to Iraq; Christmas drawdown?

RAW STORY
Published: Sunday June 18, 2006

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Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld quietly approved a request from General George Casey to begin deployment for 15,000 troops to replace some of the 127,000 in Iraq, TIME Magazine will report Sunday evening on their website for Monday magazines, RAW STORY has learned.

Casey, the magazine will report, is leaning toward a reduction to 100,000 troops in Iraq by Christmas, a senior officer tells TIME.

"The killing of terrorist leader Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi was a huge victory that led to the capture of some 800 insurgents and the killings of at least 100 more, officials said. But even as Iraqi National Security Adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaie trumpeted “the beginning of the end of al-Qaeda in Iraq,” the U.S. military death toll passed 2,500, deadly attacks by insurgents continued, and al-Zarqawi's successor was named. A U.S. military spokesman identified him as Egyptian-born Abu Ayyub al-Masri, though jihadis said his name is Abu Hamza al-Muhajer. (A U.S. intelligence official said the man's real identity is not certain.) Whatever his name, he is said to be an Afghanistan-trained explosives expert who is a longtime stalwart of al-Qaeda in Iraq, reports TIME correspondents Timothy J. Burger and Sally B. Donnelly in this week's issue on newsstands Monday, June 19.

"Even with the post-Zarqawi prognosis for Iraq unclear, a loud debate erupted in Washington over when to bring the troops home. The Bush Administration, which got a bump in the polls after al-Zarqawi's death, has talked for weeks about U.S. forces standing down as Iraqi forces stand up. With the Iraqi military and police up to 263,000-strong, some U.S. officers are privately saying it is time to start pulling American forces back. And some congressional Democrats renewed their calls for a pullout timetable.

"But a definitive reply to calls for a drawdown came from General George Casey, the U.S. commander in Iraq: Not just yet. A senior defense official tells TIME that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld last week quietly approved Casey's request to begin the deployment process for 15,000 troops, who should be in the Middle East by October to replace some of the 127,000 now in Iraq. “Things are still too uncertain in Iraq for the U.S. commanders to take a chance,” says an officer. But there may be more good news soon. According to a senior officer, Casey- who is expected to meet with Rumsfeld in Washington this week-is leaning toward a reduction to 100,000 troops in Iraq by Christmas.

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