The pullout would be completed by the end of 2008 or by early 2009, with the guiding principle to be that the withdrawal should be conducted in a more intelligent manner than the way the troops were deployed at the start of the war, the newspaper said.
After the withdrawal, it would leave behind in Iraq a mechanized infantry division of some 20,000 soldiers whose mission would be to protect the Baghdad government and take action in fighting when Iraqi forces get into trouble, the report said.
A further 10,000 US forces would be tasked with training Iraqi military and police, while another 10,000 soldiers would be in charge of logistics and supply operations, it said.
The Washington Post report noted that Secretary of Defence Robert Gates had made it understood in recent days that he was thinking of a longer troop presence in Iraq as opposed to a complete pullout.
In this context, White House spokesman Tony Snow drew a comparison between a long-term engagement in Iraq with the five-decades-old troop presence in South Korea.
When the US-led war to topple Saddam Hussein's regime was launched in March 2003, the Pentagon's planning then had foreseen that only 30,000 troops would need to be left behind in Iraq by the autumn of that year. dpa da ds
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