Abizaid: Addition of other forces doesn't mean reduced U.S. presence
August 22, 2003
ARLINGTON, Va. - An increase in the number of coalition and Iraqi forces added to the overall force structure in Iraq does not translate into a reduction of U.S. presence in the near future, said Gen. John Abizaid, commanding general of forces in that region.
Though more nations are pledging to contribute forces to the stabilization efforts of Iraq, U.S. forces should expect to stick to the two-year rotation scheduled laid out several weeks ago, Abizaid said Thursday during a Pentagon press briefing.
The recently U.S.-trained Iraqi police and protection force has grown to roughly 50,000 men, and that force, coupled with coalition-supplied soldiers, will be tapped to take over some of the security duties now being done by U.S. forces, Abizaid said.
“[The augmentation] does not mean a drawdown in U.S. forces,” he said.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he leaves the recommendation of U.S. troop strength of roughly 148,000 up Abizaid, who for the time being, said the number does not need to be changed.
The numbers, both men said, aren’t going down because of new forces coming in - and conversely, aren’t going to go up to counter the recent escalation of terrorist attacks against troops and on international “soft targets,” so named because they are not as heavily protected as U.S. bases in the country.
Tuesday, a suspected suicide bomber demolished a section of the United Nation’s building in Baghdad, killing an estimated 20 people and injuring hundreds more. On Aug. 7, a car bombing outside of the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad killed 17 people.
Several weeks ago, U.S. Army officials outlined a two-year rotational cycle for deployments in Iraq, and basically stated that soldiers should expect to be in country for a year in which they set foot in country.
Instead of security details, such as guarding government buildings and universities, U.S. troops will be moved to other missions such as securing Iraq’s porous boarders, which officials believe terrorists cells are taking advantage of in order to enter the country.
“Terrorism is clearly emerging as our No. 1 security threat,” Abizaid said.