- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 20, 2005

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Army is planning for the possibility of keeping the current number of soldiers in Iraq — more than 100,000 — for four more years, the Army’s top general said yesterday.

In an Associated Press interview, Gen. Peter Schoomaker, Army chief of staff, said the Army is prepared for the “worst case” in terms of the required level of troops in Iraq. He said the number could be adjusted lower if necessary by slowing the force rotation or by shortening tours for soldiers.

Gen. Schoomaker said commanders in Iraq and others who are in the chain of command will decide how many troops will be needed next year and beyond. About 138,000 U.S. troops, including about 25,000 Marines, are now in Iraq.

Gen. Schoomaker’s comments come amid indications from Bush administration officials and commanders in Iraq that the size of the U.S. force may be scaled back next year if certain conditions are achieved.

Among those conditions: an Iraqi constitution must be drafted in the coming days; it must be approved in a national referendum; and elections must be held for a new government under that charter.

Gen. Schoomaker, who spoke aboard an Army jet on the trip back to Washington from Kansas City, Mo., made no predictions about the pace of political progress in Iraq. But he said he was confident the Army could provide the current number of forces to fight the insurgency for many more years. The 2007-09 rotation he is planning would go beyond President Bush’s term in office, which ends in January 2009.

“We’re staying 18 months to two years ahead of ourselves” in planning which active-duty and National Guard and Reserve units will be provided to meet the commanders’ needs, Gen. Schoomaker said.

The main active-duty combat units that are scheduled to go to Iraq in the coming year are the 101st Airborne Division, based at Fort Campbell, Ky., and the 4th Infantry Division from Fort Hood, Texas. Both did one-year tours earlier in the war.

The Army has changed the way it arranges troop rotations.

Instead of sending a full complement of replacement forces each 12-month cycle, it is stretching out the rotation over two years.

The current rotation, for 2005-07, will overlap with the 2006-08 replacements. Beyond that, the Army is piecing together the plan for the 2007-09 switch, Gen. Schoomaker said.

With the recent deployments of National Guard brigades from Georgia and Pennsylvania, the National Guard has seven combat brigades in Iraq, plus thousands of support troops.

Along with the Army Reserve and Marine Reserve, they account for about 40 percent of the total U.S. forces in Iraq. Gen. Schoomaker said that will be scaled back next year to about 25 percent as newly expanded active-duty divisions such as the 101st Airborne enter the rotation.

Gen. Schoomaker disputed the suggestion by some that the Guard and Reserve units are not fully prepared for the hostile environment of Iraq.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide