Today the Secretary of Defense approved a request by the Commander of Multi-National Forces-Iraq (MNF(I)) to extend two Army brigades and a Marine Expeditionary Unit operating in Iraq. The Secretary also approved the Commanders request for two additional infantry battalions to deploy to Iraq.
General George Casey, Commander, MNF-I, requested the extension of the units, as they are the most experienced and best-qualified forces to sustain the momentum of post-Fallujah operations and to provide for additional security for the upcoming elections, in conjunction with the Iraqi Security forces.
The United States Armys 2nd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, the 2nd Brigade 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas and the United States Marine Corps 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, Okinawa, Japan, will be extended beyond their current rotation dates. This extension also includes the 66th Transportation Company, Kleber Kasern, Germany. The length of extension varies between the units. Two battalions from the 82nd Airborne Division will deploy to Iraq for an anticipated duration of approximately 120 days to support security efforts during the election period.
This approved request adds an additional 1,500 active duty soldiers, and extends approximately 10,400 active duty combat forces, which includes 2,300 Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit off of the ESSEX Expeditionary Strike Group. This extension is in conjunction with the current force rotation, and will increase the U. S. forces in theater from 17 to 20 brigades, increasing the force size in Iraq to approximately 150,000 personnel during the election period.