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Petraeus to Back Small Troop Reduction in Iraq

ROBERT SMITH, host:

The top U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, will arrive on Capitol Hill Monday, facing a Congress that includes a number of skeptics. Two reports on Iraq issued this week did not paint a rosy picture, and Petraeus has to convince Congress his strategy is working. That's if the Pentagon hopes to win an additional $50 billion to continue the war through the spring.

NPR's defense correspondent Guy Raz has a preview.

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GUY RAZ: What's long been described as the Petraeus report is now being referred to by the Pentagon as the Petraeus assessment. There's a reason why. General Petraeus won't actually be writing anything down; he'll arrive to Capitol Hill Monday armed with a stack of statistics and charts. Later in the week, the White House will put his testimony and the testimony of U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker into a written report for Congress.

Now, according to sources in the Pentagon and in Iraq, Petraeus will suggest a modest U.S. troop reduction in Iraq beginning early next year. But any proposed reduction won't necessarily be tied to security conditions in Iraq. The reductions are actually scheduled to happen anyway because starting next April the Army and the Marines run out of ready brigades to replace the ones scheduled to rotate out of Iraq.

The first surge brigade, that's about 4,000 troops, arrived in Iraq last February, and each soldier now serves a 15-month tour. So add 15 months to February and you get to April 2008. Every month after that, another brigade is scheduled to rotate out until October 2008, when the total number of U.S. troops in Iraq will return to the pre-surge level of 130,000. And Pentagon officials believe the Army and the Marines can sustain that level of troops in Iraq for several more years.

Guy Raz, NPR News, the Pentagon. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.