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Military to reduce presence in Iraq

By Lolita C. Baldor
Associated Press / November 6, 2008
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WASHINGTON - Spurred on by a continued decline in violence, the US military will reduce its presence in Iraq to 14 combat brigades this month, at least two months earlier than originally planned.

Military officials say two brigades from the 101st Airborne Division will leave Iraq this month, and only one will be replaced. A brigade is roughly 3,500 soldiers.

Initially the 3d Brigade, 101st Division, was scheduled to leave this month, and the 2d Brigade, 101st Division, was to leave by February.

Yesterday, however, the military announced the 2d Brigade will instead return to its Fort Campbell, Ky., home base this month, after serving for 13 months.

The unit served in northwest Baghdad, where violence has plunged, including a 50 percent decline in overall attacks in the area and a more than 90 percent drop in murders.

US forces have also seen a dramatic decline in troop fatalities, with deaths falling to their second-lowest monthly level in October. There were 14 US troops killed last month, including seven killed in combat. That total was one more than in July, which was the lowest monthly level of the war.

President Bush had announced in September that the military would go from 15 to 14 combat brigades in Iraq in January, following recommendations from General David Petraeus, then the military's top commander in Iraq.

The decision sparked sharp criticism from some members of Congress, who wanted Petraeus to recommend a swifter and larger drawdown in Iraq.

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