The Pentagon has tentative plans to halt the scheduled deployment of two brigades to Iraq and instead will send in smaller teams to support and train Iraqi forces in what could be an early step toward an eventual drawdown of US forces, defense officials said Wednesday.
The proposal comes amid growing pressure from Congress and the public to pull troops out of Iraq. Details still are under discussion, and the plans would depend largely on the military and political conditions in-country after parliamentary elections scheduled next week, the officials said.
The two officials, who did not want to be identified because the plans have not yet been completed, said a third brigade, initially scheduled to go to Afghanistan, also might stay home. A brigade usually numbers around 3,500 troops.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is preparing to announce the plan after next Thursday's election, if all goes well, they said.
Pentagon officials have said for some time they hoped to reduce US troop levels, now at about 154,000, as Iraqi security forces become more capable of defending their country.