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US Increasing Troop Levels in Iraq Ahead of Election


More U.S. troops are on their way to Iraq ahead of elections set for the end of January. The additional forces are intended to bolster security at a time when the country's insurgency is threatening to prevent voting in areas of the country dominated by Iraq's Sunni minority, some of whom are demanding that the election be postponed.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved a request from the top U.S. commander in Iraq to extend the rotations of more than 10,000 American troops in the country, while at the same time ordering the deployment of an additional 1500 active duty soldiers. That would put the total number of American troops in Iraq about 150,000 the most since the U.S. led invasion in March of last year.

Among those headed for Iraq are two battalions from the Army's 82nd Airborne Division based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The decision to raise troop levels reflects on going concerns about security ahead of elections scheduled for January 30, and whether parts of the country engulfed in insurgency will be secure in time for the voting. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has raised the possibility that some areas of Iraq may not be safe enough to ensure voting can take place. But there is also concern that if Iraq's Sunni minority do not take part in the vote or see the election as illegitimate, the insurgency could grow worse.