The White House said President George W. Bush would announce on Thursday that he has accepted the recommendations of the top US commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, that a gradual phase-out of the troop escalation ordered in January will begin this month and finish by next August, if conditions allow.
Bush was not going to mention specific numbers in the prime-time address, but aides said a total of about 5,700 of the 21,500 combat troops added this year will return by Christmas.
Bush hopes his proposal will buy enough time for recent gains in Iraq to take hold and spread. The plan would leave US troop strength at about 135,000, slightly above than it was before the buildup.
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