US troops will guide Iraqi elections security

The Pentagon announced that it will send 1,500 paratroopers to Iraq to boost security ahead of two upcoming national elections.

Two infantry battalions from the 82nd Airborne Division will be sent to Iraq in mid-September ahead of the planned Oct. 15 referendum on the constitution, and will stay during the December national polls, the Pentagon said in a statement.

This deployment and last week's announcement of another increase in troop levels to assist with detention operations will raise the U.S.'s military force in the country to at least 140,000.

The Pentagon's announcement Wednesday came as the U.S. President George W. Bush told military families and forces in Idaho that withdrawing from Iraq will be a mistake.

"We will stay on the offense. We'll complete our work in Afghanistan and Iraq," Bush told an audience of about 9,500, including members of the Idaho National Guard and other military branches. reported before, that about 1,800 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq, and thousands more have been wounded since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. The Bush's administration initial justification for the invasion was that Iraq possessed stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. None were found.

"We need more than photo-ops and spin control to win this war. We need an effective plan to achieve our goals in Iraq and protect our troops. The president once again offered neither," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat. "He needs to realize what most Americans now understand - that staying the course is not an option."

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