WASHINGTON (AP) — Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz says that with the election in Iraq over he believes 15,000 U.S. troops can be withdrawn, reducing the American military force to 135,000.
“I think we’ll be able to come down to the level that was projected before this election,” Wolfowitz told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Still, he struck a caution tone in his appearance before the committee on Thursday, warning that “Iraq still faces a difficult road ahead to defeat the terrorist threat and achieve stability, much less freedom and democracy.”
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told reporters at a Pentagon news conference he believes the elections may stiffen the resolve of ordinary Iraqis to fight in cooperation with American forces.
“I expect that level of violence and the insurgency to continue,” Rumsfeld said. But at the same time, the voting may have marked a “tipping point” at which Iraqis who had been intimidated by the insurgents decide to step forward and join the army or other security force or provide useful information to U.S. forces, he said.