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It's really drafty in here: U.S. struggles to find troops for Iraq, Afghanistan

Knight Ridder reports that the Pentagon is running out of ideas to keep troop numbers up. They are scraping the bottom of the barrel, having called up as many oldtimers as they possibly could, and extending tours of duty that are stretching currently deployed forces to their limits. As I feared, the NC-based 82nd Airborne is being scoped as fertile territory for new meat. Read the items highlighted in the story; they don’t have anything else to try, folks.



Courtesy of AMERICAblog.

I hope all the young Republicans that voted BC04 are now ready to step up and support their president by going into the military; they can be the ones to ensure the draft doesn’t return by volunteering.

The Army, which has been hard pressed to find enough soldiers to man the rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan, may soon be faced with an urgent request to find another 5,000 to 7,000 troops to increase the number of boots on the ground in Iraq.

Commanders there have been quietly signaling an immediate need for at least that many more soldiers to add to the 138,000 Americans already there. This, they say, is the minimum number needed to allow them to pursue the offensive against the insurgents in the wake of the taking of Fallujah.

Far from breaking the back of the insurgency, the capture of Fallujah only served as a signal for the enemy to launch its own offensive in cities across the Sunni triangle and in Baghdad itself. The fighters and leaders who fled Fallujah before the Americans launched their attack simply moved to other cities and went straight to work sowing havoc.

The daily number of attacks and incidents in Iraq is now running more than 100 per day, or double what it was before the Fallujah offensive began.

…Army planners are looking at a number of temporary stop-gap measures to boost the strength in Iraq during January, including extension of the tours of thousands of soldiers nearing the end of their 12-month combat assignment and speeding up the deployment of the 3rd Mech Infantry Division so more of them arrive before January.

They are also reportedly eyeing the ready brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division – which stands by at Fort Bragg for rapid deployment anywhere in the world in a crisis – as one way to boost temporarily troop strength in Iraq. Those troops, however, are light infantry and do not come equipped with the Bradley fighting vehicles and M1A2 Abrams tanks that are increasingly needed for urban combat in Iraq.

Finding the rest of the troops that commanders want may be difficult. Getting them to Iraq in time and properly equipped to fight in that dangerous environment may be even more difficult; Army and Marine commanders have already used up most of their bag of tricks to find troops for the usual rotations to Iraq.

The Baltimore Sun reports that the Army is hard pressed to find enough officers for staff jobs in Iraq and Afghanistan and will double the length of their tours in those countries from 179 days at present to a full 12 months.

…Other extraordinary steps ordered or under consideration include pulling officers out of military schools or delaying entry into such programs. They could also curtail family-oriented programs such as the one that allows soldiers to extend their tours at a stateside base so their children can finish their senior year in high school.

The Army is struggling to fill hundreds of staff jobs for majors and lieutenant colonels in war zone headquarters and in the past month began stripping majors and lieutenant colonels from their Pentagon billets and ordering them to Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding