Washington (AFP) Jan 11, 2007
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Thursday he would seek to expand overall US armed forces by 92,000, saying it was not known how long a beefed-up US force would be needed in Iraq. He spoke a day after President George W. Bush ordered the deployment of an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq as part of a major shift in war strategy.
Gates said he would recommend to Bush an increase by 65,000 soldiers and 27,000 marines over the next five years to boost "combat capability."
"I am recommending to him a total increase in the two services of 92,000 soldiers and marines over the next five years," Gates told a joint news conference with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace.
Ultimately, the marine corps would be increased to 202,000 and the army to 547,000, Gates said.
There are currently 1.4 million US active duty troops and another 1.2 million members of the national guard and reserve.
"The emphasis will be on increasing combat capability," Gates said, stressing that no one could predict how long US troops will be needed in Iraq.
"We'll have to see in terms of the length of time. It's really hard to say at this point. It's viewed as a temporary surge, but I think no one has a really clear idea of how long that might be," he said.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon said some national guard and reserve units would have to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan more often than earlier expected to balance the demands on the military's active and reserve components.
The changes mean that units that have already served 18 months in Iraq or Afghanistan could be called back to active duty to serve another year-long tour within the next five years.
In a prime-time televised speech from the White House, Bush said Wednesday that his decision to beef up the US troop strength was aimed at crushing terrorists, insurgents and rogue militias and helping Iraq's security forces take control of the entire country by November.
Bush's new plan calls for deploying five additional US Army brigades -- about 17,500 troops -- to Baghdad and another 4,000 marines to Al-Anbar, scene of fierce Sunni-led insurgency.
Gates said the increase in military forces in Iraq from the current strength of 132,000 would be "phased in."
"It will not unfold overnight. There will be no D-Day. It won't look like the Gulf War," he said.
The overall expansion of the armed forces, Gates said, would be a two-pronged exercise, including making permanent the "temporary increase" of 30,000 for the army and 5,000 for the marine corps.
"Then we propose to build up from that base in annual increments of 7,000 troops a year for the army and 5,000 for the marine corps," he said.
While it may take some time for the new troops to become available for deployment, Gates said, "it is important that our men and women in uniform know that additional manpower and resources are on the way."
He also said policies on how the Pentagon managed and deployed members of the reserves, the national guard, and active military component units would be revamped.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the goal was still to keep national guard and reserve deployments to one year out of every six years.
"However, today's global demands will require a number of selected guard and reserve units to be remobilized sooner than the current policy goal," he said.
The reserves, which unlike the national guard had been mobilized on an individual basis, will now be managed as units under the changes, he said.
Rice and Gates faced tough questions at the Congress Thursday on Bush's new war plans for Iraq.
Democrats, who gained control of Congress from Bush's Republicans in legislative elections on November 7 largely seen as a referendum on the Iraq war, lined up to slam the president's new plan.
Gates said at a hearing by the House Armed Services Committee that Washington would revisit its troop increase plan in Iraq if Iraqi leaders did not deliver on their political commitments.
"If the Iraqis fail to keep their commitments, I think we would have to do that," he said.
Source: Agence France-Presse
Iraq: The first techonology war of the 21st century
New Bush Strategy For Iraq Makes Sense Says Blair
London (AFP) Jan 11, 2007
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Thursday that US President George W. Bush's policy switch in Iraq "makes sense", while his foreign minister stressed it did not necessarily herald "a change of direction" from London. "Given the conditions in Baghdad at the moment, I think it makes sense for them to increase the number of their forces, provided it's to back up an increasing Iraqi capability," Blair said in a television interview.
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