Bush Keeping Iraq Troop Levels Mostly Steady

WASHINGTON — President Bush is keeping the U.S. force strength in Iraq largely intact until the next president takes over, drawing rebukes from Democrats who want the war ended and a more sizable troop shift to troubled Afghanistan.

Bush announced Tuesday that he plans to order 8,000 more combat and support troops out of Iraq by February. That drawdown is not nearly as strong or swift as first anticipated given the security gains in Iraq this year. No more combat brigades will come home for the rest of this year.

There are about 146,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

In a speech at the National Defense University, Bush said more troops may be withdrawn in the first half of 2009 if conditions improve. But that decision will soon be up to his successor.