Pentagon, service leaders to weigh troop capabilities in Iraq
ARLINGTON, Va. — Pentagon and service leaders are undertaking a thorough exam of U.S. troops in Iraq and available capabilities, and will decide in the next few weeks what if anything needs to be changed, said Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Any decision will include whether more guard and reserve units need to be activated to support missions in Iraq, he said Tuesday at a Pentagon press conference.
A majority of troops in Iraq are set to rotate out during the first quarter of next year, after having spent a year in theater. Units tapped to fill in for the next rotation — active, reserve and guard — have been notified.
The review, coupled with commitments by other nations to send in troops, will determine if leaders need to activate more units, particularly from the guard and reserve forces, Pace said.
Already, three of the Army’s Enhanced Separate Brigades — the 39th Infantry Brigade from Arkansas, 30th Infantry Brigade from North Carolina, and 81st Infantry Brigade from Washington — are slated to rotate into Iraq next year.
Safety and stability, and not a time line, will dictate how many troops will remain in Iraq, said Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
Both houses of Congress have approved the president’s supplemental request to continue operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, which allows for the activation of a fourth brigade, if necessary, Pace said.
Unit rotations to Iraq could include sending in a contingent of U.S. Marines to relieve Army units, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers was quoted as saying Monday.
Also at Tuesday’s press briefing, Rumsfeld said the military’s “Rest and Recuperation” policy is not in jeopardy of ending, in spite of the fact that roughly 30 troops have failed to make their appointed plane rides back to Iraq after spending 15 days on leave.
Some of the units missed connecting flights, others had emergency situations, which included one troop whose house burned down, Pace said.
None of the troops have been declared Absent Without Official Leave, or AWOL, or face disciplinary action, Pace said.
In other discussions, Rumsfeld agreed with, and applauded, Army Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin, the Pentagon’s undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, for requesting an inspector general’s investigation into remarks Boykin made at religious functions that put a religious spin on the nation’s war on terrorism.
Some of those talks, in which he also said that God and not voters placed President Bush in the White House, were made while Boykin was in uniform. Rumsfeld did not know whether the probe will be done by the Army’s or the Pentagon’s inspector general, or both.
Pace characterized Boykin as being remorseful for his comments.
“He does not see this battle as a battle between religions, he sees this as a battle between good and evil, the evil being the acts of individuals,” Pace said of Boykin’s remarks to him earlier Tuesday.