When the U.S. public began turning against the Iraq war, especially in late 2004/early 2005, the Bush Administration began talking less about "freedom" and more about "democracy," the new rhetoric focused on turning over the reins of power to the Iraqi people. The corollary of the self-rule frame was that, as the citizens of Iraq took greater power -- including assuming control of police and military functions -- the U.S. presence would decline. As recently as last month, officials were touting cuts in Iraq troop levels by spring 2007. No more, reports the Associate Press today: The U.S. Army has plans that would keep the current level of troops in Iraq - about 15 brigades - through 2010, the top Army officer said Wednesday. [...] Last month, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, Gen. John Abizaid, said the military would likely maintain or possibly even increase the current force levels through next spring. There are 141,000 troops in Iraq, including about 120,000 Army soldiers. In recent months the Army has shown signs of strain, as Pentagon officials have had to extend the Iraq deployments of two brigades in order to bolster security in Baghdad and allow units heading into the country to have at least one year at home before redeploying. [Army chief of staff, Gen. Peter] Schoomaker said he has received no new guidance from commanders in Iraq as to when the U.S. will be able to begin reducing the number of troops there. Last year officials had hoped to be down to about 100,000 by the end of this year, but escalating violence and sectarian tensions have prompted military leaders to increase forces. UPDATE: There's a Southern angle to this. Of the 15 Army brigades slated to stay in Iraq, seven are based in the South, including six in Fort Hood, Texas. The three Marine forces deployed in Iraq all come from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The strain on these communities will be huge.