US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Wednesday that the United States may accelerate troop withdrawal from Iraq on account of low levels of violence and recent improvements in Iraqi forces.
Speaking with reporters after his two-day visit to Baghdad, Gates said a combat brigade of 5,000 American troops could leave the country by the end of December, on top of the 10,000 troops scheduled to withdraw later this year.
“There clearly will be the occasional hiccup by someone who doesn't get the word, but on the whole we are quite pleased,” Gates said.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs clarified Gates’ comments saying that “conditions on the ground” will dictate any accelerated withdrawal. US troops officially pulled out of Iraqi cities and towns on June 30.
The United States currently has 130,000 troops in Iraq. By the end of 2010, the US-Iraqi security agreements dictates that US troop levels will drop to about 50,000 soldiers. By the end of 2011 all US troops are scheduled to leave Iraq.