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Rumsfeld: Security Situation in Iraq to Drive Troop Rotations

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 21, 2003 – The bulk of U.S. troops serving in Iraq will rotate home in the first half of 2004, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said here today.

The numbers and types of troops that replace them will be driven by the "security situation on the ground in Iraq" rather than "timelines for force reductions," the secretary said in a Pentagon press briefing.

"We're committed to staying as long as necessary, with as many forces as necessary to deal with the current threats," he said.

DoD's ultimate goal is to "increasingly shift the responsibility for Iraqi security to the Iraqis themselves," Rumsfeld explained.

As more Iraqi security forces become trained and able to carry out duties in their country, fewer U.S. and other foreign troops will be needed. In the past five months, Rumsfeld said, roughly 85,000 Iraqis have been trained to take up arms. That includes 55,000 police, 6,400 border guards, 18,700 members of the Facilities Protection Force, one 700-man battalion of the new Iraqi army, and 4,700 members of a civil-defense corps.

In the meantime, U.S. force requirements will depend on the needs of the commanders in theater, said Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Pace explained ground commanders are looking at replacing both combat and combat-support units and at finding the right mix of specialties. "The next rotation will have fewer heavy units like tanks, and more units that have humvees and lighter vehicles for mobile infantry," he said. "That also lightens up the amount of logistic support needed the mechanics needed and the like to keep the heavy equipment moving."

Finding the right balance between active and reserve-component forces is also an important step in the planning process. Pace said reserve forces need to be given as much notice of mobilization as is possible, but they need to be mobilized as late as possible and still get them where they need to be by their targeted date.

Units in Iraq are serving one-year rotations. But Reserve and National Guard units need time to mobilize and train before their one-year rotation starts. By activating units as late in this process as possible, officials hope to minimize the time reserve-component troops spend away from their homes and families.

Rumsfeld and Pace said the details on which active and reserve units will be deployed in the next rotations to Iraq are being determined now. Units will begin learning over the next several weeks, and defense officials will release the information to the public.

The secretary said he and other officials are careful not to speculate on which units might be deployed next and urged the media to follow his lead.

"These (decisions) involve lots of people's lives," he said, adding that speculation about what units might or might not go only serves to "jerk around the families and the service people."

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