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ARLINGTON, Va. — The top U.S. military commander in Iraq said Monday that he has asked Pentagon leaders for additional firepower to equal two combat brigades in order to quell unrest in Iraq.

“I have asked for essentially two brigades’ worth of combat power, if not more,” U.S. Central Command leader Gen. John Abizaid told Pentagon reporters via a satellite linkup from his headquarters in Baghdad.

Abizaid said he made his request “to the Secretary of Defense, through the Joint Staff … and when that decision is made, you’ll hear from Washington.”

He repeatedly refused to specify precisely which units he wants to use, or whether he plans to use troops who are already in Iraq, or bring more in from outside.

“I know everyone wants me to name the units and where it’s coming from, and how it’s coming, and I’m simply not going to answer that question, because I don’t know,” Abizaid said.

However, Abizaid said, “I think all of us, especially those of you that are in Europe, understand that we’ve already added forces outside of the 1st Armored Division’s normal area (Baghdad), down into the south, into the Al Kut area,” he said. “And it’s logical to assume that there will be a delay in the arrival of some of those forces … home.”

“As far as what comes next and for how long, I don’t want to get into that,” Abizaid said.

The Wiesbaden-based 1st Armored Division was due to return to Germany by May. Units were preparing for their homecoming when the security situation in Iraq took a turn for the worse about 10 days ago.

Some 1st AD family members said last Friday that they had been warned to expect a delay in the unit’s homecoming.

Elements of at least two units are definitely not leaving as scheduled, according to Army officials: the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment and the Warrior Brigade, both from Fort Polk, La.

On Friday, officials from Fort Polk issued a press release that said that elements from the two units “that are currently deployed in the Central Command area of responsibility will remain in theater longer than initially announced.”

The delay “affects approximately 3,000 troops from the 2nd ACR, and less than 100 soldiers” from Fort Polk’s Warrior Brigade, a Fort Polk spokesman, Maj. Ron Elliott, said in a Monday telephone interview.

The 2nd ACR, which is attached to the 1st Armored Division in Baghdad, was well into its scheduled rotation back to the States when the delay was instituted.

About 1,000 soldiers from the 2nd ACR already have returned to Fort Polk, Elliott said, and the entire regiment was scheduled to be home by late-April or early-May — including several planeloads of troops who were to fly back this week.

Those aircraft flights have now been canceled, Elliott said.

Elliott said Fort Polk commanders have not been told how long the troops will remain in Iraq.

“We really don’t know that part of it,” Elliott said. “Gen. Abizaid is ultimately going to make that call, based on the situation on the ground.”

An Army brigade typically has about 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers, including support troops.


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