Troop levels in Iraq could be reduced by one-third in 2006
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon on Monday announced its slate for Iraq rotations starting in mid-2006 with a substantial reduction in U.S. forces, but noted that units might still be added.
The force, which has consisted of approximately 140,000 troops for long periods, spiking to as much as 160,000 for elections, will be reduced to 92,000 troops “as presently envisioned,” the Pentagon announced.
The rotations, the DOD cautioned, can be tailored based upon changes in the security situation.
“We’ve announced the bulk of the rotation but not the entire rotation because this recognizes the evolving security situation in Iraq,” said Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Barry Venable.
The main elements of the force for 2006-2008 will be as follows:
Division headquarters, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii;13th Corps Support Command, Fort Hood, Texas;1st Brigade, 34th Infantry Division, Minnesota National Guard2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, Schweinfurt, Germany;3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Washington;3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii;2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, New York.“Additionally,” reads the press release, “the 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, based at Fort Riley, Kansas, previously notified to prepare to deploy in early December, has been advised it will not deploy prior to 31 December 2005.”
The rotation also involves about 5,000 Marines, most of which will be from the I MEF, based at Camp Pendleton, Calif., said Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Jay Delarosa.
Units from the II MEF, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., that did not participate in the most recent rotation, will also deploy in support of I MEF, Delarosa said.
The Marines are expected to arrive in Iraq in early 2006, he said.
The troop rotation announcement identified only six combat brigades, including one from the Guard, that will deploy over a two-year period beginning in mid-2006. Currently there are about 17 brigades in Iraq. Monday’s announcement did not include any Marine Corps units, although they apparently will be added later.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld spoke at the Pentagon with British Secretary of State for Defence John Reid before details were announced, stressing that combatant commanders could request changes.
“This rotation will maintain the coalition’s commitment to helping the Iraqi people, and will also give commanders flexibility as conditions on the ground continue to evolve,” said
“This rotation is just that. Units identified to replace those whose tours in Iraq will be coming to an end. We are aware of the interest in the press in the mid- to longer-term levels of U.S. forces and coalition forces in Iraq, but I would caution that it would be a mistake to draw conclusions about such matters when reviewing the force-rotation announcements.
“We continue to transition and transfer additional responsibilities to the Iraqi security forces, and the people of Iraq continue to meet the political milestones that they have established.”
Stripes reporter Jeff Schogol and the Associated Press contributed to this report.