Wednesday, December 1, 2004 3:00 p.m. EST
(Also participating were Director of Operations, Readiness and Mobilization, Army G3, Maj. Gen. Fred D. Robinson, and Director, Operations Division, USMC, Brig. Gen. Robert B. Neller)
STAFF: (In progress) -- to discuss the troop extensions and some deployments for a short-term period in Iraq, and so we will stick to that topic today. And they're going to lay it out for you a little bit and give you an opportunity to ask some questions, and then we'll wrap it up.
With that, go ahead.
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Okay. Brigadier General Rodriguez, like I said, from the Joint Staff in the Operations section. On my right I have Brigadier General Bob Neller, who's out of the Operations section of the United States Marine Corps. And on my left is Major General Robinson from the Operations section of the Army. And today we're here to talk to you about the troop extensions and deployment in Iraq to support the elections and continue to keep pressure on the insurgency.
These units that are going to be extended who are over there are the 2nd Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division, about 4,400 personnel from Hawaii; also the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Hood, Texas, and there will be about 3,500 of those; and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), approximately 2,300 personnel from both Okinawa and Hawaii and California; a transportation company, 160 personnel out of Germany. And they are all the extensions that we're going to discuss today. And then lastly there is an additional deployment of two battalions from the 82nd Airborne Division out of North Carolina, approximately 1,500 personnel.
These modifications are part of an ongoing effort by the ground commanders to review and evaluate the troop levels in Iraq and adjust to the situation. The continual review may result in additional adjustments to the troop level there, and it gives them the ability to adjust to the situation on the ground.
With that, we'll take your questions.
Q: General, are any of these extensions -- will this result in any of these troops having been on the ground in Iraq for more than 12 months --
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Yes, it will. The extensions for the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Cavalry, as well as the 2nd Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division and the 66th Transportation Company, which is the unit from Germany that I mentioned -- those personnel will be on the ground in Iraq more than 12 months.
Q: You know about how long?
Q: How long?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Up to 14 months, the longest. It's, you know, a little bit different from each other, but it's between a month and two months for both of them.
Q: How many troops are we talking about involved, the ones that you just mentioned?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: The ones I just mentioned were the 4,400 --
Q: No, how many troops does that involve? How many troops total is that?
STAFF: You mean what's the increase be over the --
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: I'll tell you the three numbers: 4,400, 3,500, and 160. Okay? I can't add that quick -- (cross talk) --
STAFF: (Off mike) -- 150,000.
Q: A hundred fifty thousand?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Total?
Q: What will the total be?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, it will be approximately 150,000 in Iraq at that point in time when the -- during the --
Q: When do you expect it to reach that point? About mid- January or early January? This month?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: It will be late December, early January about when they --
Q: When will the 82nd go? The two battalions from the 82nd, when will they go?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: They'll deploy here shortly and be there by mid- December.
Q: How long do you expect the 82nd to be there?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Expect to be there about 120 days at the -- up to 120 days.
Q: Is the 150,000 the highest level it's been since the invasion force?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Yes, it is. The 150,000 is the highest level since the invasion.
Q: General, the -- it's my understanding there are about 138,000 there now? Is that correct?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Right. Thereabout -- I'd say that's correct. Now, you've got to understand that we're just beginning another transition between forces. They do the flow. So the numbers fluctuate a little based on coming in and out, because you understand they have the two week overlap as they get their feet on the ground --
Q: Right, but roughly 10,000 of those you're talking about here are already there. So how do you --
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: The flow continues for the people that are coming in. So the difference is about 10,000.
Q: Do you know where those first units come from? How do you get the additional 12,000?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Yes, the -- I don't know whether I know all of them off the top of my head, but it's the -- like the 116th is coming in right now, so they are -- they will be additional personnel because the unit that they are replacing is not coming out. The 2nd of the 1st is already an additional unit, so that unit just flowed in recently. So that unit should be part of the additional build-up. So, but I can't give you specific fact -- I mean, I can; I don't have it off the top of my head though.
Q: General, do you plan on accelerating any elements of the 3rd ID?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: No, we do not. There's no plan to accelerate units of the 3rd Infantry Division at this point in time.
Q: How about the 3rd ACR?
Q: So the extra two months for the troops that are extended, that puts them where? And also, can you refresh our memory -- how many were in the invasion force? Is it higher than the initial invasion force? I can't remember.
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: I don't know the exact invasion force thing, but since the post combat operations since then -- I'd say it's a little bit higher than that. That was about 148,000 about that point in time.
Q: So the plans for the extensions takes them to when?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Takes them to the beginning of March to mid- March. And you know, you got to -- you got to spread it out 'cause they call can't come out at once, so it's about that time.
Q: And could you say what the primary purpose is? And if it's, in fact, for the elections, to help out that, what will the troops really be doing?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: The purposes are -- it's mainly to provide security for the elections, but it's also to keep up the pressure on the insurgency after the Fallujah operation, but both those things provide better security for the elections. So as far as, you know, how they'll be used over there, that's to be determined by the ground commanders, but -- and there's multiple ways to secure the elections, one of them being just like we did in Afghanistan, was keep the pressure up on the insurgencies and they ended up staying away. So they're going to determine that based on the situation on the ground.
Q: And you don't know yet like whether they will be at polling places --
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: No, I do not. No. That's for them to determine.
Q: That's just not in your planning?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: No. That's correct.
Q: Will you accelerate deployments, 3rd ACR?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: No, there will be no accelerated deployments at this time planned at all for either the 3rd ACR or the 3rd Infantry Division.
Q: What --
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: The timing -- as you look closely through the timing of when the people rotating in and how they're rotating in, the ground commander believes that the most experienced troops are the ones he needs to stay there longer during this critical time surrounding the Iraqi election. They're the ones who know the ground best, who have worked with the people closest. And the deploying soldiers from the 82nd are actually going to go in and replace some of the 1st Cavalry soldiers, who are securing some sites in Baghdad, and then they're going to get the 1st Cavalry soldiers out and about who have been back and forth already in the city, so that's why the most experienced soldiers has been the determining factor in why he requested that it be done this way.
Q: General Smith, the deputy commander of CENTCOM, a couple of weeks ago was talking about the possibility of an increase and was talking about maybe a brigade net increase, maybe 3 (thousand) to 5,000 troops. This seems -- this is significantly more than that net increase. What changed in that time?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Well, you know, like I said, this is an ongoing assessment. And as the ground commander assessed the situation on the ground between the operation in Fallujah and the results of that and what we were able to accomplish there, and then as he looked forward he came forward with this request. So I don't know the particulars on why that was a little bit different than what they mentioned a couple of weeks ago.
Q: Do you still have more residual commitments in Fallujah than you were expecting at this stage?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: I don't know that specifics. But, you know, like I said, this is a constant assessment of how the ground commander is going to -- you know, to execute his tasks and everything. So he made the assessment based on the current situation where they're at and what he's looking in the near future up through the election period, and this is what he's requesting.
Q: To what extent does this reflect any -- a shortfall either in numbers or capability of Iraqi security forces? And do you have any -- I know they talked about they had a goal of -- I think President Bush said 125,000 or something. Where are we on that time frame? Is there a shortage of Iraqi troops that would necessitate more U.S. troops?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: No, the Iraqi forces have continued to improve. They're making progress toward being able to provide for their own security. There are about 115,000 performing those tasks right now. And this is no reflection on the Iraqi forces. This is -- like I said, this is a combination of the Iraqi force, the coalition force and the U.S. forces, what the ground commander believes he needs for the situation at this point in time.
Q: And you're on track to reach the goal by January when the elections take place -- of Iraqi forces --
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: I believe that the 125,000 that you --
Q: So you're on track?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: That's correct.
Q: General Casey said 145,000. Are you pulling back from that number?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: No, I am not pulling back from that. I don't know the specific things. I said I think he's about close, okay? So that's -- but I don't know that specific number at this point in time. But I can get back with you on that, okay?
Q: You're saying that while there's an ongoing assessment right now that currently you expect the force to be back to about 138,000 to 140,000 by mid-March if there's no change, right?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: That's right, if there's no change. That's correct.
Q: It will be back to current level when --
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Right.
Q: Could you remind us of the other extensions of your plan? I understand there is the 20,000 with the 1st ID and the, after that, -- (inaudible).
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: The 1st Infantry Division Headquarters, and also Task Force Olympia, which is the headquarters up in MNB North, as well as the MNC-I headquarters, which is built around the 3rd Corps, we delayed the replacement of those forces a couple of weeks so that they could remain through the elections, for the same reason, so that they had the most experienced personnel there through the election period.
Q: Sir, could you run the numbers for us? What -- if you didn't do all of this, how many folks would you have had in place at the time of the elections and now after you've taken these actions and the decisions, you'll have --
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: It's about like what Charlie said. It was about 138,000 -- you know, between 138(,000) and 140,000. Right around there was where we would have been without this. And then, at this point in time, it's going to be about 150(,000), somewhere around there, after --
Q: Do you have a one-for-one promise to these guys; that they spent 14 months there, they'll spend 14 months at home?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: That is the goal, and we've been able to do that in the planning process for the other organization that was -- earlier stayed up past 12 months. That's correct. That's the goal and will continue to be the goal.
Q: A question for General Robinson.
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: And we see -- foresee no bad impact on that in the future.
Q: A question for General Robinson.
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Yeah.
Q: Can you just give us a little sense sort of what this change in the rotation does for readiness, particularly since the 82nd Airborne is the so-called 911 force?
GEN. ROBINSON: As far as readiness, it really doesn't change. Immediately upon these two battalions deploying out of the DRB (Division Ready Brigade), we will regenerate two battalions to take their place. I mean, they're already going through that process right now. We always have a backup brigade, so if one deploys, the next one's cycled to be able to fall in. And that's -- there will be no gap in the DRB capability.
Q: Are these the same troops that went to Afghanistan?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: No. No.
GEN. ROBINSON: No, sir, these are not. These are ones that --
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: They're from the same division, but a different brigade. So it's the same ones. That was --
Q: Somebody went to Afghanistan, and when was that? In September?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, they --
GEN. ROBINSON: Yeah.
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: They went around the election period, the same time, for about 90 days, the election in Afghanistan. And it was about 575 - 600 personnel --
Q: Can you tell us where you expect they'll be concentrated? The airborne troops -- where will they be concentrated?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: The --
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: It's going in the 1st Cavalry Division's area of operations, because what it's going to do is, it's going to release some 1st Cavalry Division soldiers to go back out and support the operations that are ongoing in the vicinity of Baghdad, in the greater Baghdad area.
Q: General, can you walk us through each one of these units that are being extended, when they were supposed to leave, when they'll -- when they're now scheduled to leave?
And I know for the 2nd of the 1st, it's the second extension that they've received.
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Right. They were supposed to be coming out in November, and then when we extended in the first time, for two months, they were supposed to come out in January 12th –
[Sic: Clarification on 1st Cavalry extension provided by Joint Staff:] (1st Cavalry Division units were informed in October they would be extended for two months, to depart Iraq around mid-January.)
Q: Which unit?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: This is for the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Cavalry. And now they'll come out about 45 days past that.
Q: Thirty-five days?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Forty-five days past that. So --
Q: Can you run through the other three units you mentioned -- (off mike) -- the 2nd of the 25th --
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: The 2nd of the 25th was coming out right around the beginning part of January, and now it'll come out in the March time frame now.
Q: So how long will the 2nd Brigade of the 1st --
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Just a second -- yes, about 60 days. That's correct. Also, the MEU was coming out in January, and now it's going to come out at February-March -- March 15th by the time it comes out. And then the truck company -- excuse me?
Q: How long will be the MEU be there? The Marines normally go for what, seven months? And they will be there --
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Right, they'll be there about eight months and everything, and including their ship time back and all that, somewhere around nine, nine and a half months.
Q: How long will the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Cav have been there? They were supposed to come out in November, and they're --
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: As you remember, Charlie, on the troop rotation as we go through that, we spread that. They were one of the units that was only going for 10 months originally scheduled, so the first extension took them up to about 12 months, and then this will take them up two more, so it will be about 14 months.
Q: The 2nd of the 25th, is that part of Task Force Olympia?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: The 2nd of 25th is currently part of the 1st Infantry Division, which is in north-central Baghdad, centered around Tikrit, Baqubah, in that area.
Q: And now long will they have been -- once they're finished?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: About 13-1/2 months. You know, it's just a little bit less than 14.
Q: General, go back to the question about what these troops will actually do. We've been hearing there could be as many as 6(,000) to 9,000 for the polling locations around the whole country. Would you envision U.S. troops literally standing guard at polling stations to allow people to vote, that sort of thing?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: I don't have the specifics on that. The ground commanders make that plan, and they are going through those processes now. But like I said, there's many ways to secure the elections, and that the over-arching mission is to secure the elections. But I don't have those kind of specifics here today.
Q: You're saying that it's up to Casey, basically, to make that decision --
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Right. Right. He fights that situation on the ground, he sure does.
Q: Is the 13th COSCOM part of this extension? And could you do the truck issue, please?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Yeah. The truck company, about 160 personnel, who are actually the 66th Transportation Company, are stationed on Germany, and they are part of the 3rd (sic) COSCOM. So it's one very, very small element of the 160 personnel who are in the 3rd (sic) COSCOM. And they are in the same boat. They were supposed to come out, you know, early in January, and are going to end up coming out in just by March. So it's the same thing, about 60 days of extension for them to stay.
Q: Sir, I think you mean the 13th COSCOM, right?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Yes. I'm sorry. The 13th COSCOM, yes.
Q: You used the number of 148,000. I wasn't clear whether you were referring to the -- (off mike) -- force or the total in during the elections.
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: During elections we estimate would be about 150,000 now. The high point earlier on, somewhere around May, was about 148,000.
Q: May of '03?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Yes, I'm sorry. May of '03. Thank you.
Q: One of the things that General Abizaid said a couple months ago on the Hill was that he expected there to be a need for more troops, and he hoped they would be Iraqi troops. He surely knew how many Iraqi troops would be through training on schedule by now. You say they're on schedule, but something happened here with the -- (inaudible) --
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: I mentioned earlier, the Iraqi troops are continuing to make progress and continue to develop the leaders all the way up from the senior leader level all the way through the nine commissioned officers. When he said -- you know, when he mentioned that and everything -- the training piece of it gets you so far and everything, and then the experience and all that of what they have to do and what level that they need to be to handle the situation and stuff is what the difference in stuff that we're talking about here and stuff.
So operationally, you know, they've -- like I said, they've got -- many of those units continue to make progress. They've had many recent successes, beginning in Najaf all the way up through Fallujah. And based on the situation, including all those soldiers and troops from the Iraqi Army, he still thinks he needs about 10,000 more, which is what he's asked for.
Q: So is it fair to say they're not where you or where General Abizaid hoped they would be? I mean, whether it's experience or training or whatever --
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: You'd have to ask General Abizaid that question, okay?
Q: Could I also just quickly ask General Neller and Robinson --
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Sure.
Q: -- concerns about retention, because you have these extensions? Retention, recruitment -- are you seeing any signs that you should be concerned about because of that, and does that concern you?
GEN. NELLER: For the obvious reasons, we're monitoring that very closely. And thus far we have not seen any negative trends as far as either retention or enlistment. In fact, in some cases we've seen it be positive.
Q: General Rodriguez --
Q: General Robinson, would you mind just --
GEN. ROBINSON: I just reviewed last night with the vice chief of staff of the Army the active duty and retention for the first quarter, and it's exactly on track. And, you know, the previous extensions from the 1st Armored and the 2nd Infantry are -- earlier this summer, there's -- as long as it's a mission and they're focused, we've generally not seen a retention problem.
Q: General Rodriguez, right now the elections are on track for January 30th, but there's some talk in the Iraqi government of possibly delaying that. If that happens, doesn't this throw this whole plan into chaos?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: No, this -- you know, the plan for troop rotations and how we support the combatant commander with providing troops and everything is fairly flexible. And for this plan -- for this extension and deployment here, especially the extension, understand, they would not be extended any further than this, okay? So -- but -
Q: So could you run through the hypothetical issue of --
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: No, I couldn't. I'm not going to run through all the hypotheticals, but I got to tell you that the plan is flexible and we can adjust to whatever the commander needs on the ground.
Q: So these units can be sure that if the election changes from January 30th to February 30th that they're not going to change that out date after that?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: That's right. That's the current plan right now, even if that -- that's correct.
Q: I'm sorry; February 28th would be the last day.
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Right.
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: There you go. All right.
Q: So you're guaranteeing that the 1st Cav is going to come home in --
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: I don't make guarantees. That is the plan, and all these troops -- and because these are the ones that have been there longest and been extended, the plan is that they come home at the end of this extension whether the -- you know, but let me say we're also focusing on the elections going on the 30th of January.
Q: General Rodriguez, do you know, under the original phase four plan, what was the troop level supposed to be for the U.S. in Iraq at the end of '04?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: No, I do not know that off the top of my head. No.
Q: General, what would you say to the critics who say that the fact that you had to have these extensions now, extending people beyond a year, essentially shows that the U.S. military is too small, that you ought to have more --
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: I'd say we've -- we can -- like we've always said, we give the combatant commander the troops that he needs and the level he wants, and we've been able to adjust over time as we've done many times. You know, one we were going down to actually about 13 brigades and then planning it up going back to 17. And there's enough flexibility in the plan to adjust however they need. And we --
Q: No one is saying that you can't get the job done by working harder and longer, or getting the job done. The question is, should you really have to be resorting to extensions and this sort of thing? If you had more troops in the U.S. military, specifically in the Army, wouldn't you be able to do this without having the troop extensions?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: The extensions in this case are required for the specific point in time that we're at right now, based on the Fallujah operation that just went on and the timing of the elections and the security situation. So the determination was made on the ground that the most experienced soldiers need to stay in rather than bring in the new -- rotate everybody in, so that's who he wanted additional to stay because of that. So like I said, right now, you know, we think we can handle all this at this point in time.
STAFF: We have time for maybe one or two more. How about somebody that hasn't had a chance to ask a question?
Q: General, how many -- how many insurgents do you or does the Army, the military project that you're facing there in Iraq?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: I don't have an exact number. You know, it fluctuates; there's a big range. I just don't know what that --
Q: It used to be 5,000. But is this a tacit admission that that number is growing?
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: I couldn't tell you the kind of specifics on the intelligence right now.
Q: General, during previous extensions of the 3rd Infantry Division and the 1st Armored Division in particular, some family members complained loudly and bitterly. Have you heard any response so far from family members who've said, "We were expecting our loved ones home at a certain time and now this is going to get extended."
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: No, I have not. You know, the soldiers and their family members understand the importance of this. And we understand it's a lot of sacrifice involved, and they understand that and they understand the importance of it. And they've been, you know, doing a great job and we appreciate all that.
STAFF: Jeanie, we're going to make you the last question. You have it, Jeanie.
Q: General Neller, is this the first time the Marines have been extended? And what does this do to their rotation? If the 31st MEU is going to be gone a total of nine and a half months by the time they get back, doesn't throw everything else off?
GEN. NELLER: We've extended other MEUs in the past. You remember the 26th MEU went into Iraq, and then they ended up on the way home they got extended to do the Liberia operation. So they understand they've got a mission. And if there are some potential impacts down (inaudible), then we'll adjust the schedule in order to keep our commitment to the Marines that they get time home for time deployed.
And we're looking at how we can get them back as quickly as we can. And like General Rodriguez said, we have enough depth in the structure that we can flex a little bit and to make sure that they get proper time to refit and retrain before they have to go back.
STAFF: Okay, we have passed out a news release that if there are insufficient copies, that you'll be able to get a copy over at the press office.
Q: One more?
STAFF: That was the last question. Thanks very much.
GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Thanks.
Q: When were the troops notified? When were the troops notified?
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