Bush cuts Iraq combat tours as surge comes to an end (Lead)

July 31st, 2008 - 10:30 pm ICT by IANS  

DPA
Washington, July 31 (DPA) US President George W. Bush Thursday said combat tours for US forces in Iraq would be reduced from 15 months to 12 months as a 20,000-strong troop surge to the region had now come to an end. Bush said that a sharp reduction in violence in Iraq and the increasing ability of Iraqi forces to take on their own combat missions has allowed the US to continue drawing down troops.

“We now have brought home all five of the combat brigades and the three Marine units that were sent to Iraq as part of the surge,” Bush said in a statement at the White House.

The reduced combat tours “will ease the burden on our forces, and it will make life easier for our wonderful military families,” he said.

The end of the troop surge, which began in the spring of last year, brings the number of US forces in Iraq back down to about 140,000 troops.

But Bush also warned that the US remained a “nation at war” and that progress in reducing violence in Iraq was still “reversible”.

Only 11 US troops were killed in July, according to the Pentagon, the lowest number since the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Civilian deaths across Iraq have also fallen.

General David Petraeus, commander of US forces in Iraq, would provide recommendations later this year on whether to go ahead with further troop cuts, Bush said.
DPA

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