Troops face shorter home stays

Iraq redeployments likely to speed up

March 29, 2007|By New York Times News Service..

WASHINGTON -- Army combat troops are likely to have to go back to Iraq after less than a year at home if the Bush administration decides to maintain higher troop levels through early next year, the general responsible for preparing forces for overseas deployment said yesterday.

Gen. Lance L. Smith, an Air Force officer who leads the Joint Forces Command, said "there is a high possibility" that one to three Army combat brigades would have to be sent back to Iraq less than a year after returning home from their previous deployment. A brigade has about 3,500 soldiers.

Smith also said that units due to rotate out of Iraq would probably have to be extended.

The White House has never said how long it intends the troop buildup in Iraq to last, but military officials say the increased U.S. troop level will begin declining in August unless additional units are sent or more units are kept there longer than expected.

Until now, the Army has tried to give soldiers 12 months at home to train and rest, and to relieve strains on their families.

The House recently approved a provision that, unless waived by the president, bars troops from being deployed without a year at home and from remaining in Iraq for more than 12 months. President Bush has threatened to veto legislation that would limit his options on troop deployment matters.

Smith also said the total number of additional soldiers going to Iraq is likely to increase. In recent weeks, Pentagon officials, citing requests from field commanders, have announced that they are sending 8,600 logistics and aviation troops to Iraq, in addition to the 21,500 combat troops the White House plans to send. That will increase the total number of troops to about 160,000.

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