The Sunday Telegraph, quoting an unnamed senior military source, described Howard's withdrawal plan as "one of the most closely guarded secrets in top levels of the bureaucracy".
The Sunday Telegraph said the drawdown of troops would focus on soldiers based in southern Iraq on security duty with Iraqi soldiers.
UPDATE: Australian Defense Minister Brendan Nelson has admitted that securing oil supplies is a key factor behind the presence of Australian troops in Iraq. He said maintaining "resource security" in the Middle East was a priority. But PM John Howard has played down the comments, saying it was "stretching it a bit" to conclude that Australia's Iraq involvement was motivated by oil.