U.S. troop strength in Iraq has reached its highest level of the war, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Tuesday.

As of Tuesday, about 162,000 U.S. troops were in Iraq, Whitman told reporters.

U.S. troop strength in Iraq has hovered at close to 156,000 for several weeks, but it is higher temporarily as new units rotate in and others prepare to leave, Whitman explained.

“We do this transition to ensure that the people that are coming on are fully ready to assume the duties of the unit that is going out,” he said.

Right now, the Germany-based 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment and the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade are in the process of deploying to Iraq. The 36th and 25th combat aviation brigades are coming out, according to the Defense Department.

The previous highpoint in U.S. troop strength was reached in January 2005, prior to Iraqi elections, Whitman said.

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