Army Unit That Led The Surge Is Heading For Home

March 5th, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: Army Unit That Led The Surge Is Heading For Home

Houston Chronicle
March 5, 2008 U.S. drawdown resumes in test of security gains
By Robert Burns, Associated Press
WASHINGTON An Army paratrooper unit that led the U.S. troop surge into Baghdad last year is returning home, marking a resumption of a troop drawdown that will test the durability of recent security gains.
The drawdown began last December with the departure of one brigade, numbering about 5,000 troops, dropping the overall U.S. troop level in Iraq to 158,000. A three-month lull was built into the drawdown plan, during which commanders saw insurgent violence shift from Baghdad to northern Iraq.
Although it has not yet been publicly announced, a senior military official told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the 2nd brigade, 82nd Airborne Division is heading back to Fort Bragg, N.C., soon and will not be replaced in the rotation.
That will drop the number of U.S. combat brigades in Iraq from 19 to 18, with an additional three scheduled to leave by July. Yet to be decided is whether further reductions will be made after July; President Bush on Saturday declined to promise that he will order more cuts before he leaves office in January.
A brigade usually numbers between 3,500 and 5,000 troops.
Some military leaders have pushed for a continued drawdown beyond July, arguing that a strained Army and Marine Corps need relief after five years of combat and multiple tours of duty with long absences from home. On the other hand, they don't want to reduce so quickly that security gains are lost.
The 2nd brigade, 82nd Airborne has been operating in Baghdad since January 2007, when Bush announced he was sending 21,500 Army and Marine reinforcements as part of a revamped military strategy to tamp down sectarian violence. The reinforcements included five Army brigades and two Marine battalions.
The first unit to leave Iraq without being replaced in the rotation was the 3rd brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, which went home last December. It was not one of the five "surge" brigades. Rather, it reached the end of its 15-month tour and left without being replaced. That unit had been operating in volatile Diyala province, north of Baghdad, and when it departed U.S. commanders moved other forces into Diyala from nearby areas.
It was not clear Tuesday which U.S. units are being moved into Baghdad to take over for the departing 2nd brigade, 82nd Airborne. The paratrooper unit, known as Falcon Brigade and led by Col. Don Farris, has operated in northeast Baghdad, including the Sadr City and Adhamiya districts.
At a Pentagon news conference Tuesday, Army Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, who was the No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq until he returned home in mid-February, noted that another brigade was coming out of Iraq. He did not identify the brigade.
The U.S. will have about 140,000 troops in Iraq once the brigade total has dropped to 15. That is about 8,000 more troops than when the buildup began.

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