The number of detainees held in U.S. facilities in Iraq has fallen to its lowest level since October 2005, officials said Wednesday.

There are now fewer than 11,000 detainees held by the U.S. military, down from the high point of around 26,000 during the "surge" of U.S. troops in Iraq.

According to Task Force 134 — which runs detainee operations in Iraq — once the total number of detainees drops below 8,000, Camp Bucca, in southern Iraq, will close and all remaining detainees will be held at facilities on Camp Cropper and Camp Taji.

Officials say they expect Bucca to close by the end of September.

Under the current schedule, Taji is to be handed over to the Iraqis by early 2010 and Cropper, in Baghdad, is scheduled to be handed over in August of the same year.

The U.S. military has released more than 3,500 detainees this year, transferring an additional 700 people to Iraqi custody.

Under a provision of the security agreement signed between Iraq and the United States, all detainees are to be released or transferred to Iraqi control. The goal, according to Task Force 134, is ending the coalition detainee operations mission in Iraq.

Under an agreement reached by a committee of Iraqi and American officials, the U.S. military had pledged to release or transfer 1,500 detainees each month — an average of 50 per day — until their facilities are empty.

However, according to numbers provided by Task Force 134, the average number of releases per month so far this year has been around 750.

Iraqi authorities review detainees’ case files before a determination is made on their status. The Iraqis can ask for custody of the detainee, or the person can be released outright.

In recent years, the U.S. detention system in Iraq has undergone several makeovers to change the image created by the Abu Ghraib detainee abuse scandal.

Officials have stressed vocational and religious programs aimed at reducing recidivism.

They have also touted the increased pace of releases and transfers to Iraqi authorities.

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