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After Indian refusal, US postpones troop withdrawal from Iraq

July 15, 2003 16:01 IST
Last Updated: July 15, 2003 16:24 IST

Hours after India shot down the idea of sending troops to Iraq, the Pentagon has postponed the homecoming of troops from the country for the second time in two months.

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The Pentagon announced that more than 10,000 soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division would not, as they had been told, be coming home by the end of September, says the Los Angeles Times

Most of the division will remain in Iraq 'indefinitely', said Richard Olson, a spokesman for the division. However, the paper says, the Pentagon had clarified that the extension was not linked to India's decision against sending its troops.

Till late last week, the 3rd Infantry Division had 15,900 soldiers in Iraq.  The total US force in the country is pegged at 148,000, down from it's peak of 151,000.  While the Pentagon said last week that 142,000 military personnel who had been deployed to fight the war had returned to their home bases, most of those serve in the Air Force and Navy, leaving the burden in Iraq to ground forces.

In May, the Bush administration had said it hoped to shrink the American military presence in Iraq to two divisions, by about 30,000 to 40,000 troops, by autumn, with a third division from another country also present, Pentagon officials said.

After nearly two months of deliberations, India's Cabinet Committee on Security refused to send troops requested by the US,  saying it would only do so under UN auspices.

The announcement about the 3rd Division dashes the hopes for reunion by thousands of army families, who had been separated up to 10 months from their loved ones, says the paper.

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