Pentagon Extends Iraq-Kuwait Duty for 20,000 Soldiers
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 15, 2004 About 20,000 soldiers now in Iraq and Kuwait will serve at least 90 days past their originally scheduled tours of duty, senior DoD leaders said here today.
"Our country is engaged in a global war on terror; we have things we simply must do" to achieve victory, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told reporters at a Pentagon news conference. Marine Gen. Peter Pace, Joint Chiefs of Staff vice chairman, also took part.
Senior U.S. military commanders, Rumsfeld noted, had recently asked for more troops to mitigate insurgent activity in Iraq, most notably in and around the cities of Fallujah and Najaf.
The insurgents' strategy of torpedoing the June 30 transfer of power to a free, sovereign Iraqi government "is failing," Rumsfeld asserted. But he acknowledged U.S., coalition and Iraqi forces have lately had a tough time combating insurgent violence.
U.S. Marines have stopped offensive operations in and around Fallujah in observance of the current cease-fire, Pace noted, while continuing to defend themselves against insurgent attacks.
The total period of Iraq-Kuwait troop extensions could go up to 120 days, Rumsfeld and Pace noted, if redeployment times and leaves are factored in. Most troops had received one-year tours in the region.
Troop rotations in and out of the Middle East region in the past four to five months have "given us a spike in the total number of troops in theater," Pace explained, noting there are now about 135,000 troops in the region. Original rotation plans, he said, called for end strength of about 115,000 troops.
The availability of 20,000 troops, Pace observed, "is part of the flexibility that was built into the replacement plan in the first place."
After Rumsfeld and Pace left the briefing room, Gen. George W. Casey, the Army's vice chief of staff, and other senior staff officers answered more media questions. The officers noted the following about soldiers involved in the extension:
- About 11,000 are from parts of two brigades of the 1st Armored Division based in Germany.
- About 3,100 to 3,200 are with the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment from Fort Polk, La.
- Some smaller units of 200 personnel or less drawn from Fort Bragg, N.C., Fort Drum, N.Y., and Fort Lewis, Wash., also are affected.
- About 6,000 guardsmen and reservists from more than 20 states are part of the extension.
Casey noted those forces are being provided at the request of Army Gen. John Abizaid, chief of U.S. Central Command, and Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, who oversees ground troops in the Iraqi-Kuwait theaters of operation.