Last U.S. "surge" brigade begins leaving Iraq

1/07/2008 - 15:07

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The U.S. military has begun withdrawing frmm Iraq the last of the five additional combat brigades that were deployed to the country in 2007, a U.S. military spokesman said on Tuesday.

The final "surge" brigade would leave Iraq by the end ofJuly, the spokesman said. That was in line with plans byGeneral David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq,who has said lower levels of violence would allow thereductions.

U.S. troop levels are a key issue in the Novemberpresidential election.

The U.S. military had 20 combat brigades in Iraq at itspeak in 2007, with troop levels around 160,000-170,000. Numberswill fall to about 140,000 once the final "surge" brigadedeparts.

"Elements of the fifth surge brigade have already begunredeploying, so, by the end

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