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American Forces Press Service

Abizaid Asks to Maintain Higher Force Level in Iraq

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 4, 2004 - An Army brigade and two Marine expeditionary units will replace units of the 1st Armored Division and the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Iraq, Defense, Joint Staff and Army officials said.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told reporters today at a DoD news briefing that he has approved Army Gen. John Abizaid's request to keep the number of U.S. troops in Iraq at between 135,000 and 138,000.

In April, Abizaid, head of U.S. Central Command, asked for additional troops. DoD extended two brigades of the 1st Armored Division and the 2nd Light Cavalry Regiment in Iraq to give commanders a mobile reserve. The units are now operating in the Central-South region headquartered in Hillah. The units operate in and around Najaf, Karbala and Al Mahmudiyah.

Under the plan the units were set to spend not more than 90 days extra in Iraq and not more than 120 days before getting home.

Now the 2nd Brigade 10th Mountain Division from Fort Drum, N.Y., the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Pendleton, Calif., and the 24th MEU from Camp Lejeune, N.C., will arrive in Iraq in the June/July timeframe. "That will take us to a sustained level for now of around 135,000," said Air Force Lt. Gen. Norton Schwartz, the Joint Staff operations chief. Before the Abizaid request, planners estimated the number of U.S. troops in Iraq was set at 115,000.

The 10th Division's brigade is going back to a combat zone after about seven months at Fort Drum. The brigade deployed to Afghanistan and arrived back in December 2003. The Marine units will have spent a year at their home stations.

The Marine units will stick to their seven-month rotation plan, Schwartz said, and the Army unit can spend up to a year in Iraq. All this, of course, is subject to the needs of the combatant commander, he pointed out.

Schwartz also said that Rumsfeld has approved alerting more than 600 Army National Guard and Army Reserve units as part of the deployment for the Operation Iraqi Freedom 3 rotation. These units will not deploy until later in the year.

This alert affects more than 37,000 soldiers in combat-service and combat- service-support units. He said the units include the gamut of specialties - among them aviation, transportation, quartermaster, signal, medical, military intelligence, military police, explosive ordnance disposal, maintenance, adjutant general, chaplain and engineer units. The forces could be in Iraq for a year.

Officials said they know which active duty divisions will be part of the OIF 3 deployment, but they are waiting for the official announcement of proper notification. "All of the units . when we redeployed the OIF 1 units, were given a certain timeline to reset for follow-on contingencies if required," said Lt. Gen. Richard Coty, the Army operations chief.

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