WASHINGTON (CNN) - The senior U.S. commander in Iraq Tuesday rejected a memo by a subordinate who argued for U.S. troops to withdrawal earlier than planned, the commander's spokeswoman said.
Gen. Raymond Odierno is the first senior U.S. military or civilian official to address the "Reese memo" since it went public last month, according to his spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Josslyn Aberle.
The memo said the withdrawal of U.S. troops should be accelerated because Iraqi forces will not get any better and are good enough to protect the government against attacks.
Aberle confirmed comments Odierno made in an interview with The Associated Press in Iraq on Tuesday.
"Our goal here given to us by the president is a secure, stable, sovereign, self-reliant Iraq. We're not there yet," Odierno told the AP.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Members of the President-elect's transition team at the Pentagon have completed their reviews and reports and are no longer working in the building, making way for the next wave of Obama staffers to come in, according to Pentagon officials.
The initial transition team was conducting policy reviews and getting to know the inner workings of staffing and logistics as well as talking to the Secretary of Defense and other staffers that will be staying on through the transition.
"All of their reports are written and turned into the Obama transition team and they have left the building," said Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman.
Most of the group of more than 20 transition members left before Christmas, but the team kept two or three on to help prepare Obama appointees through the Congressional confirmation process as they are named.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The U.S. military will reduce the number of troops in Iraq this month as violence has dropped and Iraqi security forces have shown vast improvements, senior military officials told CNN Wednesday.
The military said it is sending home two brigades and not replacing one of them this month, dropping the number of brigades in Iraq from 15 to 14. A brigade has about 3,000 troops.
There are currently about 152,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.
The 2nd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division was scheduled to leave Iraq in February 2009, but a late November departure will cut short by two months its 15-month tour.
The second unit, the 3rd Brigade of the 101st, is scheduled to leave this month and will not be replaced, according to Pentagon officials.
Army officials said that several other units will be returning early because of positive security situations on the ground in Iraq. However, current plans are to eventually replace those units, they said.
Early departures and not replacing forces could be the start of a trend that could allow President-elect Barack Obama to fulfill his campaign pledge to reduce the number of combat brigades in Iraq by roughly one a month in his first 16 months in office.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - At least three cases of possible voter suppression at election sites around Virginia will be investigated by state police, according to Virginia election officials.
The cases were reported in the city of Richmond, Fairfax County and Fauquier County, according to Nancy Rodrigues, Virginia's executive secretary of the Board of Elections.
In once case she said the "over presentation of law enforcement" at one polling location was called in. In another case someone was playing a recording of right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh loud enough to violate the no campaigning within 300 feet of a voting location.
"We are working very closely with local and state police to investigate these allegations," Rodrigues said during a press conference in Richmond Tuesday.
A spokesperson for the election board said they could not say what the third incident was and could not comment further on the cases, only saying that investigations are underway on all three incidents.
Voters line up to cast their ballots at Colin Powell Elementary School in Centreville, Virginia.(GETTY IMAGES)
WASHINGTON (CNN) – In the final hour of voting in Virginia the state continues to see record voter turnout and expects it to continue until the pools close at 7pm, state officials said Tuesday.
Up to 40 percent of Virginia's five million registered voters showed up to the polls Tuesday morning, breaking previous records and causing long voting lines, according to state election officials and CNN viewers.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Some 50 percent of the registered voters in Chesapeake, Virginia showed up to the polls early to vote Tuesday morning causing long wait times, according to a spokesman at the Virginia Board of Elections.
Officials do not believe there were technical problems causing the lines, however some voting locations in the area were experiencing problems with optical scanner voting as wet ballots did not scan properly. It rained in parts of Virginia election day.
At a press conference for reporters election board officials said the wet ballots would be collected and secured and once dry tabulated by officials in front of official observers.
Voting crowds have since thinned out and Virginia election officials are expecting more lines as people leave work and come to the polls to vote.
Reports of lines in the Virginia Beach region are also due to a heavy volume of voters. The region is one of the largest municipalities in the state and has seen consistent voter turnout Tuesday, officials said.
The lines had about a 30 minute wait at 4pm eastern Tuesday, and to make things move faster election officials at the voting locations split the paper voter logs among the staff to allow more voters to check in faster, according to Jessica Lane, a spokesman at the Virginia Board of Elections.
There are no reports of equipment malfunctions, Lane said. The Virginia Beach voter region uses touch-screen electronic voting machines.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Rain in parts of North Carolina caused some early problems for voters using optical scanner ballots Tuesday, but a memo about using paper towels seemed to dry up the problem, according to North Carolina officials.
Voters were coming into voting locations early Tuesday morning and getting the paper ballots wet as they handled them, according to Gary Bartlett, Executive Director of the North Carolina Election Board.
"We sent out a memo to the county election boards asking them to hand out paper towels to voters before they were given a ballot," Bartlett said.
Bartlett was not sure how many calls his office received Tuesday, but he said it was very few before he recognized the potential problem and sent out the message.
The problem seemed to subside, Bartlett said, as he saw a drop in the number of calls reporting the wet ballot problem later in the morning.