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American Forces Press Service

Too Soon to Announce Troops Cuts, Pentagon Spokesman Says

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 22, 2006 It's still too soon for the Defense Department to announce troops withdrawals from Iraq, particularly with Iraq's defense and interior ministers yet to be named, a defense spokesman told Pentagon reporters today.

Bryan Whitman, deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, lauded this weekend's inauguration of Iraq's first democratically elected, permanent parliamentary government as "a big event" and "significant milestone" for Iraq.

Whitman expressed optimism that Iraqi's government will name the defense and ministers "in short order" to help round out the cabinet. "These are important ministries," critical to the country's long-term security, and need strong leadership, he noted.

"There's still work to be done, obviously, and we look forward to the naming of those two ministers shortly," Whitman said.

Speaking yesterday on the Sunday talk shows, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said delays in filling the defense, interior and national security posts demonstrate that Iraq's new government recognizes the importance of these positions and wants to make the best selections possible.

In the meantime, U.S. troop deployment plans will remain on schedule and no troop withdrawals are imminent, Whitman said today.

"As we have always said, the coalition forces on the ground - the numbers and capabilities that we bring to bear - will be based on conditions on the ground," Whitman said. "So as conditions change, that will give an opportunity for us to make adjustments to that."

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