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As comparisons between Vietnam and President George W. Bush’s Iraq war increase, another sense of deja vu rises with reports the Army will increase troop deployments to Iraq through "at least" mid-2007.
Writes Rowan Scarborough in The Washington Times:
The Army is studying whether to add more combat units to the rotation plan for Iraq and is considering accelerating the deployments for some brigades to meet a top commander’s decision to keep more than 140,000 troops in the country through at least the spring of 2007, Pentagon officials say.
Rather than planning for a big drawdown of 30,000 Army soldiers and Marines this year to a level of 100,000, as field commanders had expected, the two services are now trying to figure out how to keep the equivalent of two extra divisions, or 40,000 troops, in Iraq.
Army Gen. John Abizaid, the top commander in the region, said last week he needed to maintain the higher-than-expected level because of increased sectarian violence in greater Baghdad between warring Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims.
The Army has met Gen. Abizaid’s immediate need for more forces by delaying the departure of a Stryker armored vehicle brigade to Alaska and by calling in a fast-reaction brigade combat team from Kuwait. But a longer-term solution may require the Army to look at adding more units to the rotation mix.
"It may accelerate the pace of deployments, or it may mean looking at calling up additional units," said a Pentagon official who asked not to be named.
That option may become reality in November, when the Pentagon is expected to identify units that will go to Iraq next year. Currently, Army units deploy for about a year, then spend one year at their home base before going back to Iraq or Afghanistan. The Marine Corps, which patrols restive Anbar Province west of Baghdad, rotates two expeditionary forces every seven months.
The Army is facing more demand for troops at a time when military analysts say it is nearly stressed to the breaking point.