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Iraq Security Adviser Says US Troops in Iraq Should Drop Sharply Next Year

A top Iraqi official says he expects the number of U.S. troops in Iraq to drop to about 100,000 by the end of next year. That would be a cut of about 40 percent from the current force. VOA's Jim Randle reports from Baghdad.

Iraq's National Security Advisor Mowaffak al-Rubaie said the number of foreign troops in his country could fall sharply by the end of 2008 if Iraq's forces are strong enough, well-trained enough, and security threats decline.

"We expect a decrease of the troops in the coming months," he said. "Hopefully by the middle of next year, according to the circumstances we hope that we reach the pre-surge level."

Rubaie spoke to journalists through a translator, echoing the remarks of General David Petraeus, the top U.S commander in Iraq who also spoke about cutting the number of U.S. troops to pre-surge levels by mid-2008.

Washington boosted U.S. troop levels by about 30,000 in a surge that began early this year. That came on top of around 130,000 U.S. troops already stationed in the country.

Washington hoped the additional troops, and a revised strategy, could reduce violence and give Iraqi political leaders a chance to move toward national reconciliation.

Rubaie spoke after General Petraeus addressed key committees in the U.S. Congress on Monday and Tuesday.

Petraeus said U.S. force reductions could continue after next summer, after another assessment of the situation in March.

In other news, the U.S. military says American troops, in separate operations Wednesday in Iraq, have detained 28 suspected al-Qaida terrorists. The military says Iraqi and U.S. forces have detained more than 60 al-Qaida in Iraq suspects since Monday.

President Bush is scheduled to give a televised speech Thursday. News reports say he is expected to discuss the number of American troops in Iraq.