WASHINGTON — In recent days, US military commanders have delivered a bleak message about Iraq: The number of American troops there is not likely to be substantially reduced anytime soon. Yet the current force may have been strained near the breaking point by frequent deployments to the region, say experts. That means in the months to come, the Pentagon could face increased pressure to expand the size of the active-duty Army, or rely even more heavily on call-ups of National Guard and Reserve units. Recruiting more soldiers would take time. But any kind of action might be welcomed by those already in uniform, many of whom have served multiple tours of duty in the Middle East. ‘As a matter of fairness, we should be trying to help these people,’ says Michael O’Hanlon, a military expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington. Currently, about 144,000 US troops are in Iraq, said Army Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, chief US military spokesman in Iraq, at an operational briefing in Baghdad this week. There is no predetermined force level set months in advance, said General Caldwell. Instead, the numbers depend on the requirements necessary to carry out the US mission […]

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