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Pentagon to announce troops rotation plan

Rest of 3rd Infantry Division next to go home

A U.S. Army explosives disposal expert dismantles a bomb found Friday alongside a Baghdad highway.
A U.S. Army explosives disposal expert dismantles a bomb found Friday alongside a Baghdad highway.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The military will announce a rotation plan for U.S. troops in Iraq sometime next week, Pentagon sources told CNN Friday.

Sources said the plan would identify which troops would replace the remainder of the battle-weary 3rd Infantry Division. Sources said the replacements would be "active duty Army troops."

Elements of the 3rd Division, which was the first to reach Baghdad, have been in the region since September and are due to be rotated next under the Army's "first in, first out" policy. One brigade is already on its way home, but two-thirds of the division -- about 9,000 soldiers -- remain.

A 3rd Division soldier was killed Friday when his vehicle drove over "an improvised explosive device" west of Fallujah, according to a military public affairs officer in Baghdad.

Eighty-nine U.S. troops have died in Iraq since President Bush declared an end to major combat operations May 1, including 33 in hostile action. In all, 226 U.S. troops have been killed in the war with Iraq, 148 of them in hostile action.

Baath Party and Saddam loyalists have staged multiple attacks against U.S. forces in the central Iraqi town of Fallujah, a hotbed of resistance.

Freshly trained Iraqi troops are gradually taking over security chores in Fallujah as Iraqis become more vocal about their dissatisfaction with the job of U.S. forces.

"We're afraid of them, and they are afraid of us," one Iraqi woman said of the U.S. soldiers.

Elsewhere Friday, U.S. soldiers blasted a statue of Saddam on horseback from its pedestal in Tikrit, the deposed leader's hometown.

U.S. Central Command said it had ended Operation Soda Mountain aimed at finding supporters of Saddam's ousted regime. It said more than 600 people were detained and thousands of ammunition rounds and weapons confiscated.

Lawmakers question U.S. role

At a House of Representatives hearing Friday on the humanitarian situation in Iraq, some lawmakers questioned the U.S. presence in the country and its costs, both in dollars and lives.

"The sooner we get out of Iraq the better off everybody is going to be," U.S. Rep. John Duncan, R-Tennessee, said in his opening remarks.

Duncan said more people from his east Tennessee district are asking him why the United States is spending billions of dollars in Iraq when the country's own budget is in severe deficit.

"I'm not interested in turning the Defense Department into ... the Department of Massive Foreign Aid," Duncan said.

Others lawmakers, such as U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-New York, called for a more international flavor in the effort to stabilize Iraq.

"It would be prudent that we would share the burden in Iraq," Maloney said. "It is our duty ... to work in a more cooperative international way with other countries in not only bringing the peace but in humanitarian assistance and helping to restore peace and democracy in Iraq for the Iraqi people."

Voice thought to be Saddam's

Meanwhile, experts believe the voice on an audiotape released this week is Saddam Hussein's, a U.S. intelligence official said Friday.

The official said the quality of the 15-minute tape is not good, so analysts cannot determine "with absolute certainty" that the speaker is the deposed Iraqi leader.

The tape, played Thursday on Arabic-language TV network Al Arabiya, praised the Baath Party's ascension to power in Iraq by a coup 35 years ago, ridiculed the newly appointed Iraqi Governing Council and exhorted Iraqis to resist the U.S. occupation.

The speaker said the recording was made July 14, but intelligence officials said there was no way to authenticate the date. The tape obviously was made recently, officials said. (Full story)

U.S. officials have said Saddam's capture or death is essential to restoring stability in the country and preventing more attacks on U.S. forces.

Other developments

• Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz -- one of the chief architects of the war in Iraq -- arrived Friday in Baghdad for a low-key visit with civil administrator L. Paul Bremer. Wolfowitz has consistently defended the troop strength and the plan in place in Iraq. In April, he told a Senate committee Iraq's transition to democracy is bound to be messy and declined to estimate how long it would take.

• A team of outside experts assessing reconstruction efforts in Iraq warns that "the potential for chaos ... is becoming more real every day" unless the U.S.-backed Coalition Provisional Authority moves quickly. (Full story)

• David Kelly, 59, a microbiologist and former U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq who was named by the British government as a possible source for a BBC report that the prime minister's office "sexed up" a dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, has been missing since Thursday afternoon. Police said they found a man's body Friday morning a few miles from Kelly's suburban London home, but it hasn't been identified. (Full story)

• Pentagon officials are discussing informally the setup of a private Iraqi security force that would take over responsibility for guarding commercial and government sites against looting and other criminal activity. (Full story)

• The Pentagon said Friday that Petty Officer 3rd Class David J. Moreno, 26, of Gering, Nebraska, was killed July 17 in Al Hamishiyah, Iraq, from a non-hostile gunshot wound. Moreno was assigned to the Naval Medical Center San Diego, California, Fourth Marine Division Detachment. The incident is under investigation.

• Retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, former U.S. interim administrator in Iraq, told a House committee Friday that stabilizing Iraq would be "a long road." Addressing security in the triangle area of Fallujah, Tikrit and Baghdad, Garner said the area is home to more 1 million "hard-core" Baathists. "Even if only 5 percent of those people are against us, that's a big number," he said. "Until we tighten the noose on them ... it's going to be difficult."

Correspondents Dana Bash, Rym Brahimi, Jill Dougherty, Jonathan Karl, Jamie McIntyre, Nic Robertson and Barbara Starr contributed to this report.


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