(dpa) - US President George W Bush is expected to announce that US Army combat tours in Iraq will be reduced from 15 to 12 months, the Washington Post reported in its Thursday edition, citing officials in Bush's government.
After testimony to congressional committees this week by General David Petraeus, the top US commander in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, US ambassador in Baghdad, Bush was scheduled to deliver an address later Thursday.
Petraeus, architect of the troop surge ordered last year by Bush, told Congress that a 45-day freeze in force strength should be imposed in July, when levels are scheduled to return to the pre-surge total of about 140,000 US soldiers in Iraq. The surge had added an additional 28,000 combat and support troops, and has been widely credited with quelling the worst of the violence that peaked in early 2007.
In his speech Thursday, Bush was expected to endorse the Petraeus freeze, intended to allow a full evaluation of US force requirements in Iraq, as well as announcing a return to the 12-month rotations that had been in place before the surge began. The restored policy would give Army units a full year out of combat between 12-month tours in Iraq.
Opposition Democrats who control Congress are pushing for faster handover of responsibility to Iraqi government security forces, in hopes of speeding the reduction of US troop commitments.