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Despite Commitments, U.S. Forces Ready For Any Contingency

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 25, 2007 – The commitment of ground forces in Iraq and Afghanistan is heavy, but the U.S. military has ample forces to respond to any other contingency that may arise, the general in charge of planning for the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today. (Video)

About 490,000 military members are forward-deployed around the world, with 234,000 in Southwest and Central Asia, about 139,000 in the Pacific, about 96,000 in the European theater, and a little more than 4,000 in Latin and Central America and the Caribbean, Army Maj. Gen. Richard Sherlock, director of operational planning for the Joint Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon.

While that may seem like a big number, it includes units that are stationed in Korea, Germany, Japan and other places, which are technically forward-deployed but are available for combat deployments, he said.

“If need be, the American armed forces will respond to whatever requirements are laid on it by the secretary of defense and the president,” Sherlock said. “If you have forces that are available -- again, whether they're in the U.S., whether they may have just redeployed, or whether they're forward-stationed -- they may be available, depending on what theoretical contingency would occur.”

In Iraq, U.S. forces are focused on building the efforts of the Iraqi security forces, Sherlock said. Last week, 744 new police officers from Abu Ghraib graduated, and this week, 800 more will graduate. During the next six months, 12,000 Iraqi security personnel will be trained, he said.

“While it will take some time to season those personnel, it again is a clear indication of the dedication of the Iraqi people to the security of their nation,” Sherlock said.

As the U.S. military is acting on troop-level decisions President Bush made based on recommendations from commanders on the ground, the Army is working to increase time at home between deployments for soldiers, Sherlock said. The ideal situation would be to give soldiers 12 months at home for every 12 months they spend deployed, but moving to that system will depend on conditions in Iraq and the need for forces, he said.

Sherlock also emphasized that the movement of troops from Iraq will depend on conditions there. The president announced that a Marine expeditionary unit, a brigade and two battalions will leave Iraq before the end of the year. The Marine expeditionary unit is in the process of redeploying, but decisions about the battalions and brigade have not been made yet, Sherlock said.

“You have to make sure what you don't do is give up gains that you've made in an area to move forces around,” he said.

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