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Report: Stop loss to continue through ’09

By STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 28, 2008

The Army’s use of involuntary extensions will likely continue through 2009 despite pledges earlier this year by top military officials to reduce reliance on the policy known as stop loss, USA Today reported Monday.

In September, 12,204 soldiers were affected by stop loss, a policy that forces them to remain in the Army after their service commitment has expired. The same number likely will be affected each month through 2009, Army Lt. Col. Mike Moose told the paper last week.

According to USA Today, the number of soldiers affected by stop loss peaked in 2005 at 15,758. Defense Secretary Robert Gates ordered stop loss to be minimized in January 2007. It fell to 8,540 in May 2007 but rose to about 12,000 in March and has stayed near that level, the paper reported. The troop buildup in Iraq and extension of Army tours from 12 to 15 months last year resulted in more stop-loss orders.

The five combat brigades associated with the "surge" of U.S. forces in Iraq returned this summer, and combat tours were reduced to 12 months on Aug. 1. But 151,000 troops remain in Iraq — 25,000 more than before the buildup began in early 2007.

In Afghanistan, there are 32,000 U.S. troops, and commanders there are seeking four more brigades, USA Today noted. A brigade has about 3,500 to 5,000 troops.

If demand for U.S. combat troops stays constant through 2009, Moose told the paper, the number of soldiers affected by stop loss will remain at about 12,000.