DoD to Extend Troops, Deploy Two Units to Iraq
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 1, 2004 The Defense Department will increase the number of troops in Iraq by 12,000, Joint Staff officials said at a Pentagon news conference today.
Two Army brigades, a Marine expeditionary unit and an Army transportation company have been extended, said Army Brig. Gen. David Rodriguez, deputy operations director at the Joint Staff. The 2nd and 3rd battalions from the 82nd Airborne Division's 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment will deploy from Fort Bragg, N.C., on Dec. 15 and serve in Baghdad for 120 days.
The decision increases the number of U.S. troops from 138,000 to 150,000 by the Jan. 30 Iraqi elections. All the troops were officially notified Nov. 30.
A total of 4,400 soldiers from the Army's 2nd Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division from Hawaii were due to leave Iraq in January. The brigade will now leave in March, officials said.
The 2nd Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division about 3,500 soldiers was due to leave Iraq in January. The Fort Hood, Texas, soldiers now will leave in February and March. The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, composed of about 2,300 Marines based in Okinawa, Japan, was set to leave Iraq in January and will now remain until the end of February.
About 160 soldiers of the 66th Transportation Company based in Germany also have been extended.
The soldiers will be in country for up to 14 months. The Marines will be in country for nine months. Rodriguez said these units will not be extended further.
Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., Multinational Force Iraq commander, requested the increase. "We are using the rotation here to give us some additional capability during a very critical window," he said during an interview today with the American Forces Press Service and the Pentagon Channel.
Casey said the units will not only help secure the country for the Jan. 30 election, but also will allow the coalition to maintain pressure on the insurgents.
The two battalions from Fort Bragg will relieve units already in Baghdad. This will free up "more seasoned forces so they can conduct operations in the greater Baghdad area," Casey said.
Officials stress that the increase is temporary and was made in coordination with the interim Iraqi government. Rodriguez also said that the move is in no way a reflection on the ability of the nascent Iraqi security forces. He said about 115,000 members of the Iraqi security forces are "trained and equipped." By the end of January, officials expect that number to be up to 125,000.
Rodriguez said the Iraqi army, the Iraqi National Guard and the Iraqi police acquitted themselves well in the recent battles around Najaf and most recently in Fallujah. Still, officials said, the coalition forces must be increased to provide more security for the election.
The election in January is the first of a series. Iraqis will elect delegates for a national assembly that will write a proposed constitution. Following that will be a referendum on the constitution and finally in January 2006 Iraqis will elect their government under the new constitution.