WASHINGTON - Two Democratic lawmakers on Friday welcomed the US administration's announcement that about 7,000 US troops will be pulled from Iraq but maintained demands for a timetable for full troop withdrawal.
"I am pleased to hear that some American families will be reunited with their brave sons, daughters, fathers and mothers in the coming weeks as the Bush administration brings troops home from Iraq after nearly three years of war," Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said in a statement.
"It is good news during this holiday season for these families and all Americans, and I would hope that the full regiment of additional forces that had been mobilized to support the Iraqi elections could soon begin to come home."
Reid said he hoped President George W. Bush will "level with the American people and inform us of what conditions on the ground must be met in order for more families to be reunited with their loved ones".
Congressman John Murtha, a decorated Vietnam War veteran who shook the establishment recently by calling for a full troop withdrawal from Iraq, said Friday's announcement fell short of his expectations.
"That's not what I had in mind," he said in a statement. "Our logistics convoys remain vulnerable and the US troops remain the targets.
"Our presence in Iraq continues to unify the insurgents against the US forces," he added. "We have to give the Iraqis a timetable to take charge of their own destiny."
US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld earlier announced that the United States would withdraw two combat brigades from Iraq in coming months.
The US Defence Department said that a decision not to deploy two brigades in Iraq next year would cut its force in the war-torn country by about 7,000.
It said the move follows "the demonstrated capabilities of Iraqi security forces in establishing primary security conditions in the recent Iraqi elections."
But the Pentagon warned in a statement that while the number of troops was likely to fall below the normal level of 138,000 in the spring, "US troop numbers may continue to fluctuate in response to conditions and requirements as assessed by US commanders.
The Pentagon said the 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division based in Fort Riley, Kansas, would not be sent to Iraq. The 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, which is based in Germany, would remain on call in Kuwait instead of going to Iraq.
"This decision will result in a reduction of US force levels of approximately two combat brigade-equivalents, or about 7,000 troops, in Iraq. This will bring the number of US combat brigades in Iraq from 17 to 15," said the statement.
"Commanders will continue to assess the situation on the ground for future force-level adjustments. We will continually adjust our military posture as conditions evolve and Iraqi capabilities grow."
The Pentagon also said numbers of US forces "will continue to fluctuate as commanders continue to shift focus from combat operations to training and supporting the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF).
"This will include increases in the number of U.S. forces involved in transition teams, intelligence support and logistics, to assist the ISF in continuing to assume responsibility for the security of their country."
The Pentagon said that "the effect of these adjustments will likely reduce the forces in Iraq by the spring of 2006 below the 138,000 baseline."
The United States has had about 138,000 troops in Iraq for several months but this was increased to about 160,000 for the December 15 election for a permanent parliament.