Marines to go back to Iraq in troop swap

43,000 in Guard, Reserve face possible 1-year duty

November 06, 2003|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon began alerting 43,000 Reserve and National Guard troops late yesterday for the possibility of yearlong duty in Iraq or Kuwait as part of a rotation plan that would reduce the overall U.S. military presence in Iraq by next spring, senior military officials said.

The alert warnings and deployment orders approved yesterday by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld reflected deep concern by Pentagon officials - and within the administration - over stresses that large mobilizations have placed on reservists and their families. These, in turn, have prompted complaints in Congress.

The orders were drafted to give the troops maximum warning about their possible duty and to ensure that the bulk of them had not already been called up since Sept. 11, 2001, senior Pentagon officials said.

The plan would draw down U.S. forces in Iraq to about 105,000 troops from 130,000 amid next year's presidential election campaign.

Pentagon planners have sought to limit additional call-ups of National Guard and Reserve forces beyond those combat units identified months ago, but ultimately realized that, at the least, logistics units would be required in the next rotation.

The proposal also takes account of plans to accelerate the training and fielding of Iraq's own security forces to more than 200,000 personnel next year.

Rumsfeld is ordering about 20,000 active-duty Marines from the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, Calif., to help fill the gap left by departing Army forces. Also being sent are about 7,000 soldiers from the Army's 25th Infantry Division, based in Hawaii.

The Reserve alert puts 397 units on notice in most of the 50 states.

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