From NBC's Courtney Kube
The number of US troops in Iraq has hit its highest level since the beginning of the war, with about 162,000 US forces on the ground there. But keep in mind that the armed forces are in the middle of a transition, with three brigades re-deploying and preparing to re-deploy right now. Some of the replacement brigades are already in Iraq, so the overlapping soldiers have caused the bump in force levels.
Pentagon spokesperson Bryan Whitman chalked up the increase to "normal rotations," citing the fact that the troop levels have hovered around 158,000 for the past three months.
The details: The 36th and the 25th Combat Aviation Brigades are both re-deploying now, and the 13th Sustainment Command is preparing to re-deploy now that their replacement brigade is completely on the ground. The 36th has about 2,700 soldiers; the 25th has about 2,500; and the 13th has more than 5,000 soldiers -- for a total of more than 10,000 soldiers who will be transitioning and re-deploying over the next six weeks.