US to leave Iraq where local forces can take over

The US military will choose Iraqi cities and provinces from which to carry out a planned troop withdrawal based on the ability of Iraqi forces to maintain security amid a persistent insurgency, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff said Thursday. Gen. Peter Pace said the current force of 160,000 would drop to below 138,000 by March, then US commanders on the ground would work with the Iraqi government to determine the pace of future pullbacks in areas that have been secured by local forces. Amid congressional pressure and growing public opposition to the war, the Bush administration last week announced plans to reduce US combat troops in Iraq to below the 138,000 level that prevailed for most of this year. The exact size of the additional troops cuts has not been announced, but senior Pentagon officials have said the number of American troops in Iraq could drop to about 100,000 by next fall.