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Military planners have agreed that any troop reductions in Iraq will lead to an increase in U.S. units in Afghanistan, rather than more time at home to rest and train, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday, citing an unnamed senior defense official.

The Times wrote that the defense official, who would only talk on the condition of anonymity, said the decision followed a protracted internal battle.

Last year’s troop buildup in Iraq and the overall strain on U.S. ground forces have constrained proposals to increase forces in Afghanistan.

Many military officials, including top Army leaders, have advocated taking advantage of future troop reductions in Iraq by giving U.S. units more time at home.

But violence is rising sharply in Afghanistan, with attacks up almost 40 percent in the eastern provinces alone, Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser said at a Pentagon news conference Tuesday.

The new data has prompted alarm among senior Pentagon officials, the Times noted.

A similar assessment presented by Schloesser to top Pentagon brass in recent weeks about attacks by Islamic extremist groups sent shock waves through the department, a senior military officer told the Times.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in an April 11 news conference in which he discussed the NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania, said he was frustrated with allies’ unwillingness to commit more troops to Afghanistan.

Asked about more U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Gates said that he had spoken to President Bush about the possibility, and said he would see any increase in Afghanistan as tied to troop reductions in Iraq, though he did not say that reductions in Iraq would automatically mean a troop increase in Afghanistan.

Stars and Stripes reporter Jeff Schogol contributed to this report.


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