The Pentagon is canceling plans to send a 3,500-member Army brigade to Iraq, a move that speeds the drawdown there and could free up forces as President Barack Obama considers sending new troops to Afghanistan.
The 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team from the 10th Mountain Division based in Fort Drum, New York, had been scheduled to relieve another combat brigade in Iraq in January. But the brigade will no longer deploy and will now return to the Army's pool of available combat forces, the Defense Department said Saturday.
"This decision was based on a thorough assessment of the security environment in Iraq and reflects the continued improvement in the ability of the Iraqi Security Forces to safeguard Iraqi citizens and institutions," the statement said.
The U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, has recommended from as many as 80,000 more troops to as few as 10,000 for the war in Afghanistan - but favors a compromise of 40,000 more forces. Such additional forces would not be deployed until early next year at the soonest, and it is not clear how they would be fully compiled.
Obama has said he would make up his mind on additional troops in the coming weeks, and no announcement is expected before November.