Defense Secretary to Enlarge Army by 22,000 Troops to Meet War Needs

By Pauline Jelinek and Jason Straziuso
Associated Press
Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced Monday that the size of the Army is being increased temporarily by 22,000 soldiers to help meet the needs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other missions around the world.

This is the second time since 2007 that the military has determined it doesn't have a large enough force. Gates had already increased the size of the Army and Marine Corps shortly after taking the Pentagon job.

Gates noted that while progress in Iraq will lead to a reduction in the number of troops there, more troops are needed in Afghanistan because of the worsening violence in that conflict. He said the persistent pace of operations in the two wars over several years has meant a steady increase in the number of troops who are wounded, stressed or otherwise unable to deploy with their units.

Also causing a shortage is the decision earlier this year to stop the unpopular practice of keeping troops beyond their enlistment dates, a practice known as "stop-loss."

"The cumulative effect of these factors is that the Army faces a period where its ability to continue to deploy combat units [with enough troops] is at risk," Gates said at a Pentagon news conference.

"This is a temporary challenge that will peak in the coming year and abate over the course of the next three years," Gates said.

The Army currently has a total troop strength of 547,000. Gates said he would not seek additional money for the extra troops in the 2009 and 2010 fiscal year budgets.

In Afghanistan, at least 30 U.S. troops have died this month -- two more than the toll for June 2008, which had been the deadliest month for the American force in the country since the 2001 invasion.

On Monday, four Americans were killed when a roadside bomb exploded in eastern Afghanistan, NATO said in a statement. The statement did not provide the names of those killed.

Meanwhile, a British fighter jet crashed at NATO's largest base in southern Afghanistan on Monday, the second aircraft to go down there in two days.

The Royal Air Force GR4 Tornado crashed inside Kandahar Airfield during takeoff at 7:20 a.m., said Capt. Ruben Hoornveld, a spokesman for the NATO-led force. The crew's two members ejected and were being treated for injuries at the base hospital.

Straziuso reported from Kabul.

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