By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Seven active-duty Army brigades have been scheduled to deploy to Iraq later this year, the Defense Department announced yesterday, a plan that would allow U.S. commanders to keep troop levels at about 140,000 through the end of the Bush administration and into the next president's term.
The deployments will be part of the regular rotation of troops into Iraq and will come on the heels of the "surge" of troops, which is expected to end this summer. The increased U.S. presence in Iraq -- which topped out at about 170,000 troops -- is expected to go down to 140,000 by the end of July. U.S. officials plan to keep 15 combat brigades in Iraq through the end of the year, though ongoing assessments could allow commanders to change those numbers.
The brigades that will deploy come from the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii and Alaska, the 4th Infantry Division in Colorado, the 1st Infantry Division in Kansas, the 82nd Airborne Division in North Carolina, the 173rd Infantry Brigade in Germany, and the 1st Cavalry Division in Texas. All have prior experience in Iraq, some with multiple tours. About 25,000 troops will take part in the deployment, which will be limited to 12 months under current Pentagon policy.
Although the troop increase has been widely credited with improving security in Iraq, it is unclear what a reduction will mean over the coming months. U.S. officials plan to watch the situation closely amid calls from Congress for force reductions.
The next deployments will come this fall, meaning commanders will have at least seven combat brigades in Iraq through the end of 2009; more deployment announcements could come soon.
"These deployments all represent replacement forces for those already there in Iraq," said Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman. "It does not add to the level of effort, nor does it decrease the level of effort."
The Defense Department also announced yesterday that four Army National Guard brigades will deploy to Iraq in spring 2009 to take part in security missions, such as base defense and route security in Iraq and Kuwait. The four brigades -- from Texas, Pennsylvania, Louisiana and Tennessee -- include about 14,000 soldiers.
Pentagon officials also notified 3,100 soldiers with the Vermont Army National Guard that they will deploy to Afghanistan in 2010 to train Afghan National Army soldiers. They will replace a unit from Georgia that has yet to arrive there.