- The Washington Times - Monday, September 25, 2006

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld yesterday said the military will deploy some combat units to Iraq earlier than previously planned, to meet a commander’s new need for more than 140,000 troops in country until at least next spring.

Mr. Rumsfeld made the comment to reporters at the Pentagon on the same day it was announced that another Army unit was staying in Iraq beyond its scheduled departure date.

Army Gen. John Abizaid, who heads U.S. Central Command, said last week he needs the increased troop level to deal with sectarian violence in the Baghdad area that could push the country into a civil war if not stopped. The U.S. troop level had been fairly constant at about 130,000 during the summer. Commanders had hoped to announce a big reduction in troop levels, perhaps to as low as 100,000, but those plans are now shelved.

Mr. Rumsfeld said the Pentagon is dealing with the new demand by delaying the departure of some units. He then added, “On the other hand, we’re also bringing some other units in earlier, which is another way of dealing with that issue.”

The defense chief did not identify the units that will deploy sooner than expected. Pentagon officials say a rotation schedule is likely to be announced in November.

The Washington Times reported yesterday that the Army was looking at accelerating the deployment of some units and adding others to the rotation mix to reach the 140,000-troop level.

“There’s no question but that any time there’s a war, the forces of the countries involved are asked to do a great deal,” Mr. Rumsfeld said.

The 1st Brigade of the 1st Armored Division was to return to its base in Germany in early January but now will stay several more months.

The Pentagon already revoked the departure of an Army Stryker armored-vehicle brigade and sent it to Baghdad to help quell the violence.

The service already is struggling to meet worldwide commitments and dealing with low-combat readiness among non-deployed units who lack adequate equipment at their home bases.

The Army is wearing out weapons systems so fast in Iraq’s harsh environment that it needs more than $40 billion in the next three years to buy replacements.

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