The U.S. military plans to maintain a higher troop presence in Iraq through the end of 2005 as defense officials brace for more trouble in the country.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that there will be what he calls a period of uncertainty in Iraq as the June 30 transfer of sovereignty to a new Iraqi government nears.
He told reporters at the Pentagon that he also expected more attacks by insurgents, but said that is why U.S. forces are staying. "You're also going to have a period of increased attacks," he acknowledged. "I mean, we just have to expect that, but our forces are there. They're going to stay there."
Another senior Pentagon official said the plan is now to keep about 138,000 thousand troops in Iraq through the end of 2005. The military has already begun notifying active duty and reserve units that will be needed to maintain that level. Defense officials had hoped to cut back the number of soldiers in Iraq to 115,000 this month, but scrapped the plan in the face of increased violence and higher American casualties.