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US May Boost Troops In Iraq

Pentagon officials said Wednesday some 1,600 troops in the 3rd Stryker Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division now assigned to Mosul (pictured) would be moved to Baghdad.
by Pamela Hess
UPI Pentagon Correspondent
Washington (UPI) Nov 30, 2006
There is a 16,000-soldier "gap" in Baghdad, according to a secret White House memo leaked to the New York Times. The memo, from National Security Adviser Steve Hadley, lays out a way ahead for U.S. policy in Iraq that suggests the number of U.S. forces there could increase, rather than decrease. The White House memo was leaked as Democrats prepare to take over Congress.

A faction of the Democratic Party wants to see a withdrawal of U.S. forces, either beginning immediately or phased over time.

"We might also need to fill the current four-brigade gap in Baghdad with coalition forces if reliable Iraqi forces are not identified," states the Oct. 30 memo, which was transcribed and posted on the Web by the newspaper.

Baghdad is in the throes of extreme violence; more than 6,000 civilians have been killed - most of them execution style - in Baghdad since May. Kidnappings and deadly car bombs are weekly if not daily events.

The U.S. military has identified the fight to restore order in Baghdad as the "center of gravity" of the battle for Iraq. If Baghdad is not brought under control, the rest of the country can not be pacified.

However, there are apparently not enough U.S. or reliable Iraqi forces to plug the troop gap in Baghdad.

While sufficient numbers of Iraqi forces may exist elsewhere in the country, moving them to Baghdad may leave a security gap behind them, leaving the area open to insurgents or militia activity, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace said at a Pentagon press conference Wednesday.

"The question is, when they move them from where they are, what condition does that create from where they moved them," Pace said. "There are some units around Iraq that, if moved into Baghdad, would not be helpful. If a Sunni unit somewhere else in Iraq moved into a (Shiite) neighborhood, or a (Shiite) unit someplace else in Iraq moved into a Sunni neighborhood, is not going to help the problem."

Pentagon officials said Wednesday some 1,600 troops in the 3rd Stryker Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division now assigned to Mosul would be moved to Baghdad. But they are replacing troops, not augmenting them. The two battalions of the brigade are replacing the departing 172nd Stryker Brigade, which completed a year in northern Iraq and then was extended four months for additional duty in Baghdad.

The White House memo makes no reference to the possibility of withdrawing troops. Instead, it suggests asking the secretary of defense and Army Gen. George Casey, the commander of coalition forces in Iraq, whether more forces are needed in Baghdad.

It also suggests asking Casey to dramatically increase the number of U.S. troops embedded with national police. The memo's main thrust is how to bolster Iraqi Prime Minsiter Nouri al-Maliki's authority and power in Iraq over both Shiite partisans and insurgent forces.

Gen. John Abizaid, the chief of U.S. Central Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier in November that a significant increase in military and police trainers would be needed but declined to specify a number and whether the total number of troops in Iraq would need to increase to handle that mission. There are now 15 to 20 U.S. troops embedded with each of Iraq's army battalions.

Pace said that pulling troops out of Anbar province, the single most dangerous place for U.S. forces in Iraq and the center of operations for al-Qaida in Iraq, to reinforce Baghdad is not part of the plan, despite rumors to the contrary.

"Why would we want to forfeit any part of Iraq to the enemy? We don't," he said. "There is no immediate thoughts to moving all coalition forces out of Al Anbar Province and turning over right now today all security in Al Anbar to Iraqi security forces. It's not on the table."

Pace said eventually turning security operations in Anbar over to Iraq forces as well as the rest of the country is the goal.

"The question was, were we going to abandon Al Anbar. And the answer is, no," Pace said.

Source: United Press International

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More US Troops To Help Garrison Baghdad
Washington (AFP) Nov 29, 2006
The US military is moving as many as three battalions from other parts of Iraq to Baghdad to beef up security in the violence-torn capital, a US defense official said Wednesday. The official said the US troops would not come from Al-Anbar, a vast western province where US marines have been fighting a bitter, long-running Sunni insurgency.

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