ARLINGTON, Va. — Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey said he expects a slight increase in the number of soldiers deployed through the middle of 2010.

The increase is not expected to hinder the Army’s efforts to give soldiers more time at home between combat tours, Casey said Wednesday.

As of Jan. 13, about 104,000 soldiers were deployed to Iraq and 23,000 soldiers were deployed to Afghanistan, according to figures provided by the Army.

The Army is expected to draw down in Iraq but increase its presence in Afghanistan, where commanders have requested about 30,000 additional troops.

So far, the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division and the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade have been ordered to Afghanistan. An unspecified number of the remaining troops are expected to be Marines.

Speaking at an Association of the United States Army event, Casey could not quantify how many extra troops are expected to deploy in 2009 and 2010.

"I don’t know. I mean I honestly don’t know; we haven’t made the decisions so I don’t know, but I’m just giving you my projections," Casey told reporters after the event.

However, Casey said the increase will not be significant enough to slow the Army’s efforts to eventually give soldiers two years at home between deployments.

"It’s become clearer and clearer to me that increasing the time the soldiers spend at home is the most important element of getting ourselves back in balance," he said.

Given the "cumulative effects of repeated deployments," 12 months at home is not enough anymore, Casey said.

Soldiers also need at least 18 months at home to train for both conventional and irregular warfare, Casey said.

It will be a "couple of years," before units will have enough time at home to balance training for both types of conflicts, he said.

Also Wednesday, Casey said the Army should meet its goal of increasing active-duty end strength to 547,000 this year.

"It improves our ability to distribute the force while we continue to build," Casey said.

It will take a couple more years to make sure all units are fully up to strength, Casey said. Some units are not fully manned because soldiers have been diverted to fill other needs.

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