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Pentagon Officials: Too Early to Say If Units Will Extend in Iraq

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 26, 2004 – It is too early to say if units currently deployed to Iraq may be extended in their tours of duty, Pentagon officials said today.

In September, Army Gen. John Abizaid, head of U.S. Central Command, told the Senate he believed he would need 160,000 trained forces to provide security for the January election, which will choose delegates to write the Iraqi constitution. There are now 138,000 American troops in the country, with 155,000 in the region.

Officials said U.S. forces are flexible and remain poised to do what needs to be done. "It would be inappropriate to speculate on the process," said a Pentagon spokesman. "There is ongoing planning related to troops levels and security during the election period."

Officials stressed that this is contingency planning. "Sometimes you execute these contingency plans, sometimes you don't," said the spokesman.

One way officials might increase forces in Iraq is to extend the tours of units in country and speed up deployment of those in the States.

Officials still hope that countries will volunteer to provide security for U.N. voting officials and other international officials who would help run the election. Multinational forces could also help protect polling places.

Officials hope that Iraqi security forces can also provide more protection.

U.S. Central Command increased the number of American forces in the run-up to the Afghan elections Oct. 9.

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