WASHINGTON – The Pentagon has tentative plans to halt the scheduled deployment of two brigades to Iraq and instead send smaller teams to support and train Iraqi forces in what could be an early step toward an eventual drawdown of U.S. forces, defense officials said Wednesday.
The proposal comes amid growing pressure from Congress and the public to pull troops out of Iraq. Details are still under discussion, and it would largely depend on the military and political conditions there after the parliamentary elections next week, said the officials.
The two officials, who did not want to be identified because the plans have not yet been finalized, said a third brigade, initially scheduled to go to Afghanistan, may also stay home. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is preparing to announce the plan after the Iraq election next Thursday, if all goes well, they said.
Pentagon officials have said all along that they hope to reduce U.S. troop levels, now at about 154,000, as Iraqi security forces become more capable of defending their own country. A brigade usually numbers around 3,500 troops.
Under the plan, deployment of the 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, based at Fort Riley, Kan., would be canceled. Instead, for the first time, portions of the brigade would be divided into military transition teams that would be sent separately into Iraq to work with Iraqi security forces.
The second unit that would not deploy to Iraq is the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, is currently in Kuwait and is usually based in Germany.
The 4th Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, based at Fort Polk, La., would not go to Afghanistan.