President Bush has authorized a reduction in U.S. combat troops in Iraq, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said Friday during a town hall meeting at Camp Falluja, Iraq."At the recommendation of our military commanders and in consultation with our coalition partners and with the Iraqi Government, President Bush has authorized an adjustment in U.S. combat brigades in Iraq from 17 to 15," Rumsfeld told 400 to 500 U.S. troops.
The adjustments will reduce forces in Iraq below the baseline level of 138,000 -- which has provided the guideline for most of the year, by spring of 2006, as well as below the high of 160,000 troops as Iraqi elections approached, Rumsfeld said. The exact amount of the reduction was not given, and Rumsfeld said details would be provided later by the Pentagon.
Further reductions will be considered next year when Iraq's new government is in place and prepared to discuss the future, he said.Rumsfeld flew into Iraq from Afghanistan on Thursday, and was met at Baghdad International Airport by Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in the country.
Meanwhile, gunmen killed four police commandos and wounded six others Thursday morning at an Iraqi police checkpoint in southern Baghdad, police said.About an hour later, gunmen kidnapped three Iraqi women in southwestern Baghdad. The women, who work in the Green Zone, were abducted when the gunmen stopped their vehicle.
Insurgents often target people perceived as helping the United States. The heavily fortified Green Zone is home to U.S. military headquarters and government ministries and embassies.On Tuesday, in separate incidents, an Iraqi truck driver was killed and his brother was abducted by gunmen about 15 miles (25 km) southeast of Baquba, an official with Diyala's provincial Joint Coordination Center said.
Representatives from Sunni Arab, Kurdish and secular Shiite Arab groups on Thursday rejected preliminary results of last week's election, claiming fraud and calling for an investigation. Their umbrella group, called Maram, is calling for new elections. Maram includes entities led by secular Shiites Ayad Allawi and Ahmed Chalabi and Sunni Arab groups, including one led by Saleh al-Mutlag.
The group wants the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, which oversaw last week's vote, to be disbanded and an alternative set up.If that isn't done, Maram plans to call for nationwide peaceful demonstrations. Reports indicate a boycott of the new Council of Representatives could be in the works, reports CNN. I.L.