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Pentagon announces troop rotation plan for mid-2006

WASHINGTON—The Pentagon announced a plan Monday that will send 92,000 fresh troops to Iraq beginning in mid-2006, but officials warned that overall troop strength would depend on how Iraq's security situation evolves.

The troop rotation plan includes soldiers from eight active-duty Army brigades, an active support command and one National Guard brigade. The rotations are for one year.

The plan also reduces the number of National Guardsmen in Iraq. Earlier this year, National Guardsmen constituted about 40 percent of U.S. ground forces, and some critics have complained that the military was relying too much on part-time troops who they argue should be used at home for disaster relief and homeland defense.

Troop strength in Iraq has remained at about 138,000 for much of the last year, but it was increased before the October constitutional referendum to about 160,000 in anticipation of more insurgent attacks. U.S. troops in Iraq currently number around 150,000, and they're expected to remain at that level through the December elections for a new government before dropping back to 138,000, according to military officials.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said long-term troop levels would depend on conditions in Iraq, particularly on how soon Iraqi security forces can take over.

"We continue to transition and transfer additional responsibilities to the Iraqi security forces," Rumsfeld said. "As these and other conditions are met, Gen. (George) Casey will continue to assess the capabilities that he believes he will need and make recommendations as to the levels he believes will be needed in the coming months."

Casey is the top U.S. general in Iraq and the commander of all U.S. and multinational forces.

Included in Monday's announcement were:

_Division Headquarters, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

_3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

_13th Corps Support Command, Fort Hood, Texas.

_1st Brigade, 34th Infantry Division, Minnesota Army National Guard.

_2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, Schweinfurt, Germany.

_3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash.

_3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.

_2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.

In addition, the Pentagon said that deployment of the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, based at Fort Riley, Kan., wouldn't take place before Dec. 31. That unit originally was supposed to deploy at the beginning of December.

About 53,000 of the Army troops in the 2006 rotation are active duty and more than 25,000 are National Guardsmen, said Maj. Todd Vician, a Pentagon spokesman. Not included in Monday's announcement were more than 5,000 Marines, 3,700 sailors and more than 3,300 airmen who also are scheduled to deploy to Iraq next year.

Additional announcements by each service for the deployment of smaller units are expected in the future, said Lt. Col. Barry Venable, a Pentagon spokesman.

Venable said that the base line for U.S. troop strength in Iraq would remain at 138,000 for next year, but that number could go fluctuate, depending on the security situation.

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(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

Iraq

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