The number of US troops inside Iraq has dipped below 50,000 for the first time since the US invasion in March 2003. Reuters reported Tuesday that there are now 49,700 military personnel there, beating by one week the end-of-the-month deadline set by President Obama for reducing troops levels to 50,000. Of the current total, approximately 7,000 are airmen. Speaking last week at a conference in Atlanta, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley pegged that number at 7,300, down from about 9,800 one year ago. Come Sept. 1, the US military mission in Iraq will formally change from a combat role to an advise-and-assist presence. By the end of 2011, the Obama Administration wants all US military personnel out of Iraq. (Includes Atlanta release by TSgt. Amaani Lyle) (See also Associated Press report)
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.