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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Leaked Memo Details Cuts in U.K. and U.S. Forces in Iraq

LONDON -- A confidential British military assessment examines the possibility of drastically cutting troop strength in Iraq by the end of next year, to 3,000 from about 8,500 now, in a memo leaked to the newspaper The Mail on Sunday. The memo also raises the possibility of a sharp drop in the number of troops the United States and other allies have in Iraq by the middle of 2006.

John Reid, the defense minister of Britain, confirmed the document's authenticity on Sunday but said it was one of a number of papers setting out scenarios for a transfer of security responsibilities to Iraqi forces. Pentagon officials and Reid stressed that no final decision on troop levels or timetables for withdrawal had been reached.

The document, titled "Options for Future U.K. Force Posture in Iraq," lays out a potential "halving" of costs of about $1.8 billion a year for Britain in such troop cuts. It also refers to "strong U.S. military desire" to hand over control to Iraqi forces in 14 out of 18 provinces. However, the document said, while planners at the Pentagon favored a "relatively bold reduction," U.S. commanders in Iraq were urging caution.

On Sunday, several Pentagon officials said the British memo, which appears to have been written at least a month ago, was accurate in describing the desire among American officials to reduce force levels next year -- if security conditions and the performance of Iraqi security forces improve.

Bryan Whitman, a senior Pentagon spokesman, said that the British memo's assertion that "emerging U.S. plans" envision steep troop reductions in 2006 "is not inconsistent with the goal."

The United States currently has about 140,000 troops in Iraq, according to the Pentagon.

The British memo discusses a possible reduction in overall troop strength, including the United States and its allies, from 176,000 to 66,000 in 2006.