U.S. Brigade's Iraq Deployment On Hold Until Further Notice

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 8, 2006  - About 3,500 active-duty soldiers who were slated to begin their deployment to Iraq in the coming days will remain at their base in Schweinfurt, Germany, until further notice, defense officials announced today.

Members of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, were officially notified within recent days that they won't deploy early this month, as scheduled, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told Pentagon reporters.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld approved the adjustment, which was recommended by Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of Multinational Force Iraq, Whitman said.

Whitman emphasized that the decision doesn't signal the start of a troop drawdown and doesn't affect the number of U.S. troops on the ground, currently about 133,000. "This is a very narrow decision to hold one brigade from deploying and to give the commanders on the ground additional time to continue their assessments," he said.

The decision also doesn't cancel the 2nd Brigade's deployment, but puts it temporarily on hold until a final decision is made, Whitman said.

Decisions about troop numbers are based on conditions on the ground, as assessed by commanders there in consultation with the Iraqi government, he said.

Whitman cited signs of progress in Iraq during recent weeks, with indications Prime Minister Designate Jawad al-Maliki is close to appointing the rest of his Cabinet. "As we know, the pillars of progress move in parallel with each other," he said. "So as you have progress in the political front, it will lead to progress in the security front and then progress in the economic front."

Defense officials also noted continued progress among Iraq's security forces. More than 254,000 Iraqi security forces are trained and equipped, up more than 40,000 since November 2004, noted Army Lt. Col. Barry Venable, a Pentagon spokesman. Of these forces, two divisions, 16 brigades and 58 battalions have assumed the lead in their operating areas, he said.

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