WASHINGTON - The number of US troops in Iraq have swelled to 150,000, the largest number reported this year, the Defense Department said Monday.

A Pentagon spokesman atributed the growth in size of the force to overlapping unit rotations, but it came amid surging violence that has turned Iraq into the number one issue of the US elections on November 7.

"Several units are transitioning out as several are transitioning in," said Lietenant Colonel Mark Ballesteros, who said that as of Monday the number of US troops in Iraq was 150,000.

That is the highest levels since December 2005 when US commanders built up US troop levels for the Iraqi elections.

10/30/2006 20:55 GMT

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