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Deployment Notice Orders Don't Indicate Future Iraq Troop Levels

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 21, 2006 – Yesterday's announcement of deployment orders for Iraq issued to four more combat brigades should not be viewed as an indicator of future force levels there, a top Defense Department spokesman said here today.

The deployment orders allow commanders in Iraq to have flexibility in capabilities available to them, but actual decisions about units deploying will be made after further, careful consideration of the situation on the ground, Bryan Whitman, deputy assistant defense secretary for public affairs, said.

"You want to notify units as early as you can, but you want to do it within the framework that you also maintain the maximum amount of flexibility given that you have changing and evolving situations in Iraq," Whitman told reporters.

"Our principles will remain the same: that the size of the U.S. force presence in Iraq will be based on the conditions on the ground," he added. "It'll be determined through continual assessments made by the commanders on the ground and recommendations made to the secretary of defense and the president."

DoD officials announced yesterday that 21,000 more troops, including four Army combat brigades, had been alerted for service in Iraq. However, Whitman explained today, that number could change significantly up or down depending on recommendations from Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of Multinational Force Iraq.

Whitman said an assessment and a recommendation on troop levels were expected from Casey soon.

Defense officials have revised over time the method in which they handle troop rotations in Iraq. Whitman explained that major rotations of most of the combat forces in country are a thing of the past. DoD officials realize this operational notion stresses logistics assets and doesn't provide the most flexibility.

Leaders instead now alert several units and have them in the pipeline, prepared to go, when and if they are needed to replace a unit that is redeploying or to provide a surge capability. Units that may deploy need to know as far in advance as possible to prepare families, adjust training schedules and stabilize personnel. However, final decisions on moving troops are delayed as long as possible to give commanders flexibility to deal with sometimes rapidly shifting operational situations.

Because of this, some units that are alerted may deploy later than anticipated or not at all, Whitman said. As an example, he pointed to the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division, based in Schweinfurt, Germany. Officials announced in November that the unit was slated for deployment, but the unit is still in Germany. Based on conditions on the ground, commanders so far have decided they haven't needed the additional combat capability the unit would provide.

"This construct allows us to ready forces, to have them prepared, but yet to be flexible and adaptable to a dynamic situation that exists," Whitman said.

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