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ARLINGTON, Va. — U.S. soldiers in Iraq will need fewer Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles as troop levels drop next year, said Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, head of Multi-National Corps-Iraq.

The Army has been allocated 10,000 of the vehicles, known as MRAPs, which have V-shaped hulls to deflect blasts from underneath and have proven to withstand blasts much better than up-armored Humvees.

But the vehicles are also unwieldy and cannot operate off-road, in confined spaces, and they cannot cross many bridges.

On Monday, USA Today first reported that Odierno said the Army likely would not need as many MRAPs as originally thought.

"The number of brigades will reduce in the coming months and that reduces the need for the original higher number," Odierno said in a statement e-mailed to Stars and Stripes on Monday.

While Odierno did not provide a specific number of how many MRAPs are needed in Iraq, he said the Army will need more than the 1,500 vehicles expected to be in the U.S. Central Command theater of operations by the end of the year.

Odierno said he has asked brigade and battalion commanders for feedback to determine how many MRAPs are needed in Iraq and how the vehicles should be used.

"But we are now just receiving them and it will take a few months to determine the appropriate concept of operations and the appropriate number," he said.

He also said U.S. troops will continue to conduct dismounted patrols to interact with local Iraqis.

"We will secure the population where they sleep, earn their trust and confidence and continue to integrate Civilian and Military Efforts to improve security and stability," Odierno said.

MNC-I originally requested more than 17,000 MRAPs to replace up-armored Humvees; Defense officials later decided to allocate the Army 10,000 of the vehicles.

Odierno’s reassessment comes after Marine Corps officials said last month that the Corps was reducing its request for MRAPs from 3,700 to 2,300 due to the vehicles’ limitations and the improved security situation in Iraq.

And last week, Bloomberg.com reported that the head of the Defense Department’s MRAP task force planned to purchase about 3,200 MRAPs this month, or about half the number of vehicles the Defense Department was expected to order.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman had no further information on the matter Monday.

"The facts are, until we place an order, an order is not placed," Whitman said. "I wouldn’t start counting those numbers until we do."

Despite the Army and Marine Corps’ reassessment of their MRAP needs, commanders still want the vehicles, a senior military official said on Monday.

"Though it would have been great to have had them a year ago, that doesn’t mean they’re not still critically needed," the official said.

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