Armed Services chairmen diverge on Iraqi troop level reports

The chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services committees split Wednesday on reports the Obama administration is planning to keep 3,000 U.S. troops in Iraq beyond Dec. 31.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) told reporters he is “not concerned” that leaving 3,000 U.S. troops there into next year “is too small.”

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Hours later, his House counterpart, Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), said more American troops must remain in Iraq to preserve what he sees as a U.S. victory there.

The House Armed Services Committee chairman told reporters during a roundtable session that he has been told by “commanders in the field” that they would prefer keeping “at least 10,000” American troops there “or get everyone out” -- including U.S. diplomats and civilian personnel.

Fox News Channel first reported the 3,000-troops figure on Tuesday, citing administration sources. Pentagon officials have since said no final decisions have been made on possible troop levels.

Levin said he would support keeping U.S. troops there to train Iraqi security forces, conduct counterterrorism missions, and “a unit to prevent Iranian” meddling inside Iraq.