WASHINGTON — Pentagon officials told a Senate committee Thursday that President Bush’s planned increase of U.S. forces in Iraq will require as many as 28,500 troops, USA Today reported Friday.

In January, Bush said he would send 21,500 more combat troops to Iraq. Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England said Thursday that 6,000 to 7,000 support troops will be needed to back up the larger combat force, the paper reported.

England’s estimate differed from a Congressional Budget Office estimate last month that as many as 28,000 extra troops would be needed to support the increase.

Adm. Edmund Giambastiani, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that some support troops have already been approved.

“There are 2,400 that have been approved to date,” Giambastiani told the Senators, “and there are some additional requests for somewhere in the order of — for combat support, detainee support, those kind of things — I would say in the order of 3,000, 4,000. But once again, these numbers are much lower than what you’ve seen before. And we are in with the Joint Chiefs reviewing these requests right now.”

There are about 10,000 soldiers in Iraq now associated with the troop increase, according to Army spokesman Lt. Col. Carl Ey.

“The support train is flowing,” Ey told Stars and Stripes via e-mail. “We expect to have about 25-26 [thousand] total in the Plus Up.”

The support units being considered have not been identified yet, Ey said.

The increase in force levels is expected to reach its peak in May, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s Feb. 1 report.

“Thus far, the Department of Defense has identified only combat units for deployment,” the report said. “However, U.S. military operations also require substantial support forces, including personnel to staff headquarters, serve as military police and provide communications, contracting, engineering, intelligence, medical and other services.

“Over the past few years, DOD’s practice has been to deploy a total of about 9,500 personnel per combat brigade to the Iraq theater, including about 4,000 combat troops and about 5,500 supporting troops,” the CBO reported.

England stressed that with the existing infrastructure and support units in place, such ratios would not be needed.

“The CBO had a very large number of support troops, and we already have a large number in theater,” he said. “So while the number we have estimated may vary somewhat, it’s not at all going to be in that order of many multiples estimated by CBO.”

USA Today also reported that England told the Senate Budget Committee that it will be clear within months whether the increase in forces has succeeded in helping secure Iraq.

“By this summer we would have a much better indication in terms of the success of the program,” England is reported as saying. “And so at that time we would adjust however is appropriate to do so.”

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