ARLINGTON, Va. — Despite hopes for a drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq this year, the number of U.S. troops in country is going up amid rising sectarian violence in Baghdad.
As part of the next rotation to Iraq, 25,000 stateside troops have been tapped to deploy, and 3,500 members of an Army brigade that has been in Iraq for about a year were told their stays have been extended by up to 120 days, according to the Defense Department.
With the extension, the number of brigades in Iraq has increased from 15 to 16, bringing the number of U.S. troops in that country from about 127,000 to about 132,000, officials said.
Ultimately, the number of U.S. troops in Iraq is expected to be between 130,000 and 135,000, said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman on Friday.
The announcement on the next rotation comes amid plans to bolster security in Baghdad.
“The facts are that you have a security challenge that has emerged in Baghdad that Gen. [George] Casey along with Iraqi government has said that we need to address, and what you’re seeing is a flexible and adaptable force based on those changing, dynamic conditions that are now being addressed by the application of additional Iraqi and U.S. forces,” Whitman told reporters on Friday.
Asked about the possibility for U.S. troop reductions in coming months, Whitman reiterated that adjustments in U.S. troop levels will be based on conditions in Iraq.
“And we’ve always said that those adjustments could go either way,” Whitman said.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved a request by the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq to extend the deployment of part of the Alaska-based 172nd Stryker Brigade, which is now in the Mosul area, a Defense Department news release says.
Given the brigade’s equipment and experienced soldiers, “My understanding is that at least a portion of these forces will be used for addressing what Gen. Casey sees as a need to increase the effort in and around Baghdad,” Whitman said.
Col. Michael Shields, commander of the 172nd, could not be reached for comment.
The Defense Department announced has that the following additional stateside units are slated to deploy to Iraq:
- 1st Brigade 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.
- 4th Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Bliss, Texas.
- Marine Regimental Combat Team 2, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
- Marine Regimental Combat Team 6, Camp Lejeune.
Additionally, the 1st Brigade 3rd Infantry Division from Fort Stewart, Ga., has been put in a “prepare-to-deploy” status to possibly deploy later this year, the news release says.