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5,000 US troops to withdraw from Iraq

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Around 5,000 American troops will head home later this month as part of a withdrawal plan announced by President George W Bush, US military spokesman Rear Admiral Gregory Smith says.

"Current conditions allow for a withdrawal of the first unit, the Grey Wolf Brigade, starting on November 27," Rear Admiral Smith told reporters at a press conference in Baghdad.

The brigade will not be replaced.

Rear Admiral Smith says the drawdown is an indication of "overall improved security within Iraq, as well as the improved capabilities of the Iraqi security forces."

The brigade has been deployed in restive Diyala province where a series of military crackdowns have been launched targeting Al Qaeda militants.

In September, Mr Bush announced plans for the immediate withdrawal of a Marine expeditionary unit of about 2,000 troops, followed by a combat brigade by December.

He further said that four army combat brigades and two marine battalions would return home by July 2008, reducing US forces to pre-surge levels of 15 combat brigades - around 130,000 troops.

In February, Mr Bush announced 28,500 extra troops would be sent as part of a controversial "surge" to quell bloodshed in Iraq. © 2007 Australian Broadcasting Corporation

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