Army May Have To Extend Iraq Tours

Army May Have To Extend Iraq Tours
June 20th, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: Army May Have To Extend Iraq Tours

Army May Have To Extend Iraq Tours
San Diego Union-Tribune
June 20, 2007 Spokesman says 'it would be the last option on the list'
By Anne Flaherty, Associated Press
WASHINGTON – The Army is considering whether it will have to extend the combat tours of troops in Iraq if President Bush opts to maintain the recent buildup of forces through spring 2008.
Acting Army Secretary Pete Geren testified yesterday that the service is reviewing other options, including relying more heavily on Army reservists or Navy and Air Force personnel, so as not to put more pressure on a stretched active-duty force.
Most soldiers spend 15 months in combat with a guaranteed 12 months at home, a rotation plan that has infuriated Democrats because it exceeds the service's goal of giving troops equal time home and in combat. In coming weeks, the Senate will vote on a proposal by Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., that would restrict deployments.
“It's too early to look into the next year, but for the Army we have to begin to plan,” Geren told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “We have to look into our options.”
Army spokesman Paul Boyce said, “If the future were to require such an option, it would be the last option on the list.”
Gen. David Petraeus, Iraq war commander, suggested Sunday that conditions on the ground might not be stable enough by September to justify a drop in force levels, and he predicted that stabilizing Iraq could take a decade. Earlier this year, Bush ordered the deployment of about 30,000 additional troops as part of a massive U.S.-led security push around Baghdad and the western Anbar province.
There are about 156,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.
When asked by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., whether maintaining the force buildup would affect soldiers' 15-month combat schedules, Geren said he was unsure and cited “numerous options” available, including a “different utilization of the Guard and Reserve” and relying on the other services for help.
“We're committed to filling the requirements that the combatant commander asks,” Geren said. “We have been able to do so up until now, and we will continue to do so.”
The Army assessment comes as Democrats say they are already dissatisfied with the existing policy.
“Who was talking for the well-being and the health of the soldiers when this requirement was put down?” asked Webb, referring to the 15-month combat tours. After four years of combat, the strategy in Iraq cannot “justify doing this to the soldiers in the Army and the families back here,” he said.
Geren also said it “would certainly be valuable” if other departments helped more in rebuilding Iraq.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman said he was surprised during a recent trip to Iraq to see how many soldiers were tasked with “nation-building.”
“I wish every American could see what the U.S. Army and others are doing to rebuild the government, the health care system, the education system, to secure the neighborhoods,” said Lieberman, I-Conn. “But some of that, in the best of all worlds, should frankly be done by people from other departments of our government.”
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said yesterday that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had accepted a request by Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad, to “beef up the economic and political sections” of the embassy with more Arabic-language speakers and mid-to senior-level foreign service officers to supplement the existing work force.
There are 10 U.S. diplomats in Baghdad, including Crocker, who are fluent in both written and spoken Arabic, the State Department said.

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