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Next Iraq rotation to include 21,000 stateside troops

Pentagon: Future troop strength still undetermined

By JEFF SCHOGOL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 22, 2006

ARLINGTON, Va. — The Defense Department has announced that 21,000 troops from stateside units are expected to be part of the next rotation to Iraq, but officials caution that overall future U.S. troop strength in Iraq has not yet been determined.

The units include the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas; III Corps Headquarters at Fort Hood; the II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune, N.C.; and the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colo., and Fort Richardson, Alaska, according to a Defense Department news release.

Asked if the next rotation is a one-for-one replacement for U.S. troops currently on the ground pending future adjustments, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said, “I suppose that’s not an inaccurate way to look at it.”

These troops would be in addition to the 92,000 troops that the Defense Department has already announced would be heading to Iraq, but U.S. Central Command has up to six months to determine if all the troops would be needed, a defense official said on Wednesday.

“It’s best to plan for the present state and anticipate what you may or may not need in the future,” the defense official said.

These units will complement those who, as of last November, were scheduled to deploy, including the 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, based in Schweinfurt, Germany.

The Defense official said it is prudent planning to put all the units on standby to deploy and then make adjustments to troop levels.

“When you are mobilizing and deploying 113,000 people, giving the soldiers and leadership as much advance notification as possible makes the ultimate deployment more efficient. It also provides the necessary planning time that the units need in anticipation of a major move from the continental United States, Hawaii or Europe to Iraq,” the official said.

Also Wednesday, Whitman cautioned reporters against trying to determine how many U.S. troops will be in Iraq next year by simply adding up the number of troops currently slated to deploy.

“We expect a new assessment coming in from the [Multi-National Force — Iraq] commander soon, and that will either adjust the current forces that are already slated to deploy or could give us a clearer picture of what additional forces might need to be put on deployment orders going into the future, too,” Whitman said.

Gen. George Casey, commander of Multi-National Force — Iraq, has yet to make his recommendation on future troop levels, said Col. Nelson McCouch III, a spokesman for Casey.

“As Gen. Casey has repeatedly said there are many factors to consider when it comes to troop reductions and projected security situation is a key factor,” said McCouch in a Wednesday e-mail to Stars and Stripes.


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