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Bush Raises Troops Levels In Afghanistan, Cuts In Iraq

  • VOA News
  • Anis Ahmed

U.S. President George Bush says he is sending more forces to Afghanistan while withdrawing about eight thousand troops from Iraq.

Mr. Bush Tuesday told military commanders at the National Defense University in Washington that the troops leaving Iraq will do so by next February. After all deployments in Afghanistan there will be a net gain of about 15 hundred troops.

The president says he is able to withdraw troops from Iraq because of the dramatic drop in violence there. But he said that even with the withdrawal, there will be slightly more American forces in Iraq than before the surge in military personnel.

He says the forces leaving will include a Marine battalion from Anbar province (comprising 15-hundred people), an Army combat brigade (or about 35-hundred to five thousand troops) as well as more than three thousand aviation personnel, construction engineers and military police.

In November, a Marine battalion that was scheduled to go to Iraq will instead be deployed to Afghanistan. An army combat brigade will follow in January.

Mr. Bush says that as al-Qaida faces increased pressure in Iraq, terrorists are stepping up efforts in Afghanistan. He says Afghanistan's success is critical to the security of the United States and its partners in the free world.

The president has also pledged support for Pakistan's struggle against Taliban and al-Qaida forces operating along the border with Afghanistan. He said the terrorists pose a "mortal threat" to Pakistan and that Islamabad must keep the country from turning into "a safe haven" for extremists.

The United States has 146-thousand troops in Iraq and about 34-thousand in Afghanistan.

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