Mullen: Troop total in Iraq to drop sharply

By LOLITA C. BALDOR | September 20, 2011 | 12:45 PM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) — The top U.S military officer says the number of American troops in Iraq will fall to 30,000 by the end of this month.

That's about a one-third drop from the current number and would be the first big withdrawal this year.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made the disclosure Tuesday at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He provided no details.

There are about 44,500 U.S. troops in Iraq. When the U.S. officially ended its combat mission in Iraq on Sept. 1, 2010, it had about 50,000 troops.

Under a 2008 agreement, all U.S. troops are to be out of Iraq by the end of this year. Talks are under way with Iraq to consider leaving at least a few thousand to help train Iraqi forces.