US troops may start pulling outof Iraq this year as Iraqi forces are assuming more responsibilities in security matters in the country, Secretary of State Colin Powell hinted in an interview with the National Public Radio on Wednesday.
With the money the United States spent in training the new Iraqi forces, the Iraq forces would be able to assume a greater burden in 2005, Powell said. Transcripts of the interview, conducted on Tuesday, were released by the State Department on Wednesday.
"I believe that during 2005 they will be able to assume a greater burden and with the assumption of that greater burden, theburden on our troops should go down and we should start to see ournumbers going in the other direction," Powell said.
Powell, however, did not give a timeline as to when US troops would be pulled out. "I would like to see our troops come out as quickly as possible...But it's not possible right now to say that by the end of 2005, we'll be down to such and such a number," he said.
The US military deployment in Iraq was related to the security environment, and would start to reduce as the security environmentimproved, he said. "We hope that with the continuing buildup of Iraqi forces they can take on a greater proportion of the burden, and thereby, we can start pulling back."
There are currently about US 150,000 troops in Iraq, including some 12,000 soldiers added to boost security in the country beforethe elections on Jan. 30.