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US not considering draft: Pentagon

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Aug 13, 2007
The Pentagon sharply rejected Monday a key general's assertion that a return to the military draft has always been "an option on the table" and should be considered.

"I can tell you emphatically that there is absolutely no consideration being given to reinstituting the draft," said Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman. "The all-volunteer force has surpassed all expectations of its founders."

Lieutenant General Douglas Lute, a White House deputy national security adviser, discussed the draft in a radio interview Friday in which he said military leaders were right to be concerned about the impact of repeated deployments on military morale and readiness.

Lute, who is in charge of coordinating the US war effort in Iraq, said the all-volunteer military is serving "exceedingly well" and the administration has not decided it needs to be replaced with a draft.

But he said, "I think it makes sense to certainly consider it, and I can tell you, this has always been an option on the table."

"But ultimately, this is a policy matter between meeting the demands for the nation's security by one means or another," he said in the interview with National Public Radio.

Reinstating the draft has become a virtual taboo since it was ended in 1973 near the end of the Vietnam War, and replaced with a smaller, better paid all-volunteer force.

The US military found that it preferred voluntary service to universal conscription because it drew better educated, more highly motivated recruits looking to make a career of the military.

An unpopular draft was a key feature of protests against the Vietnam War.

Until recently, though, the rare calls for a return of the draft have come from liberals, who see the existence of a professional military as one reason there was so little public opposition to the US invasion of Iraq.

Some conservatives also have worried that the absence of universal military service would lead to a generation of civilian leaders with no military experience.

And there has been a rumbling of complaints that the war's burden has not been broadly shared.

But resistance to a return of the draft has remained strong even as the army has had to ease standards and pay huge sums in incentives, bonuses and advertising to attract military age recruits.

Former US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Congress in 2005 "there isn't a chance in the world that the draft will be brought back."

Gates, who is on vacation, has not commented on Lute's remarks, but Whitman referred reporters to the secretary's confirmation hearings in December in which he said a draft was not needed.

Acknowledging that the US military is having a harder time filling its ranks, he told the Senate Armed Services Committee that it was a temporary problem tied to the war in Iraq.

"In all honesty, I think that when people perceive that joining the services is not a direct ticket to Iraq, our opportunities for increasing the numbers are going to be significant," said Gates, who was president of Texas A and M University at the time.

"We have this problem, frankly, with the Corps of Cadets at Texas A and M, where we have a tough time recruiting people because they think if you put on a cadet uniform at A and M that mom and dad think you're going to go straight to Iraq," he told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The army and the marine corps both exceeded their recruiting goals for July, and are on track to meet their annual target.

But the army, which missed its recruiting goals in May and June, added a 20,000 dollar bonus for recruits who signed up and are shipped off to boot camp before September 30, the end of the fiscal year.

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US 'surge' in Iraq 'likely to fail': British lawmakers
London (AFP) Aug 12, 2007
The US "surge" of troops in Iraq is likely to fail, a British parliamentary committee said Monday as it delivered a critical report on London's foreign policy in the Middle East.

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