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Pentagon set to deploy 30,000 GIs Reservists would join Guard brigades replacing troops currently in Iraq
Newsday Wednesday, October 22, 2003
Washington -- After failing to attract large numbers of foreign peacekeepers to Iraq, the Pentagon is drawing up plans to rotate in as many as 30,000 more reservists early next year, despite growing worries in Congress about strains on the force, defense officials said Tuesday.
These troops would join three, 5,000-member Army National Guard brigades already in line to go to Iraq as part of an expected yearlong rotation to replace U.S. troops now there. U.S. Marines also may be sent back into Iraq by February to ease the burden on overstretched Army forces that normally shoulder U.S. peacekeeping duties.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld refused to discuss Tuesday how many more reservists might be needed next year, saying no final decisions had been made, but other officials described the planning for a reserves call-up on condition of anonymity.
There is growing unease on Capitol Hill about the stresses put on reserve forces by the war on terrorism, and questions over whether the Bush administration adequately foresaw just how many U.S. troops would be needed in Iraq, and for how long.
Republicans and Democrats in Congress have told Pentagon officials at repeated hearings about the complaints they hear from National Guard and reserve families about the strains of extended deployments. Some reservists now in Iraq had expected to be there for several months but have seen their tours of duty extended to 12 to 15 months -- which is what any new reservists also are being told to expect.
Top Pentagon officials also say they are concerned about overstretching the reserve component and acknowledge that the strains are showing, with some reserve commands in danger of falling short of recruitment goals. But defense officials also acknowledge that they have little choice but to lean on the reserve units, mainly because of the failure to attract foreign troops and because U.S. Army active-duty forces already are stretched thin by worldwide deployments.
Pentagon officials originally had hoped that a "multinational division" of 10,000 to 15,000 troops would replace the 101st Airborne Division in northern Iraq, but those forces have not materialized. In addition to 133,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, there are 24,000 foreign troops, including those from Britain, Poland and Spain.
Last week a top Pentagon official raised the possibility of reducing the U.S. presence in Iraq to 116,000 in the coming year, and senior Army officials have devised one scenario in which the U.S. troop presence in Iraq would be fewer than 100,000 by next summer.
Meanwhile, in Iraq Tuesday, Iraqi police backed by U.S. troops raided a mosque before dawn in the holy city of Karbala, arresting dozens in a clampdown on Shiite Muslim militants. Outside the Sunni Muslim city of Fallujah, meanwhile, insurgents struck U.S. forces for a third straight day.
The continuing attacks on the U.S. occupation army produced no new reported casualties.
The latest troubles in Karbala began a week ago over ownership of a bus, but reflect a power struggle between armed followers of militant Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who demands an immediate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, and gunmen loyal to religious leaders who take a more moderate stand toward the Americans.
Al-Sadr's group occupied a mosque in the shrine city amid clashes that officials of the U.S.-led coalition said left three Iraqis dead and 50 wounded.
With the endorsement of Karbala's senior clerics, Iraq's interim Governing Council decided to act against the al-Sadr forces, said interim Interior Minister Nori al-Badran.
The raid went smoothly, he said. "All the gunmen surrendered with their weapons. Twenty-one people were arrested. Another 20 guarding outside the mosque were arrested, too."
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