Pentagon lists new rotations for Iraq
The Pentagon on Friday identified the active-duty Army brigades that would rotate into Iraq early next year, a deployment that would enable the U.S. military to maintain the current troop level there through the first months of 2007.
Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, has said he expects the troop level to remain at about 141,000 through at least spring.
“This is a normal rotation announcement that should maintain troop strength at its current level,” said Lt. Col. Mark Ballesteros, a Pentagon spokesman.
The units to be deployed are the 173rd Airborne Brigade, based in Vicenza, Italy; 4th Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, Ft. Riley, Kan.; 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Ft. Lewis, Wash.; 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, Ft. Bragg, N.C.; 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, Ft. Benning, Ga.; and Division Headquarters, 3rd Infantry, Ft. Stewart, Ga.
The first phase of the latest rotation will involve 57,000 troops, the Pentagon said, including 20,000 soldiers in combat brigades and 10,000 reservists and 27,000 active-duty troops deployed as parts of smaller units.
The Pentagon also announced that the 218th Brigade Combat Team, a 1,500-soldier unit of the South Carolina Army National Guard, will deploy to Afghanistan to help train the Afghan military and police forces. The Defense Department said 6,200 active-duty and 600 reservists also would deploy to Afghanistan early next year.
Military officials cautioned that the latest list of units headed to Iraq could be altered, especially if the Bush administration endorses a new policy that requires a different level of combat power.
The Pentagon has adjusted its Iraq rotations several times, cutting brigades from the deployment list when it reduced force levels and extending other units when it wanted to build strength quickly.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has requested an increase in the troop level to help Iraqi forces take control in Al Anbar province, where insurgents have limited the government’s ability to function effectively.
The Pentagon has resisted such calls. Some military leaders have said there are not enough troops to dramatically increase the personnel level for any substantial period.
Wednesday, Abizaid said adding U.S. troops could slow the growth of the Iraqi military.