More troops may be necessary for elections in Iraq, Pentagon says
Anticipating a new burst of insurgent violence, the Pentagon expects to temporarily expand the U.S. force in Iraq to improve security for...
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Anticipating a new burst of insurgent violence, the Pentagon expects to temporarily expand the U.S. force in Iraq to improve security for a planned October referendum and a December election.
Although much public attention has been focused recently on the prospect of reducing U.S. forces next spring and summer, defense officials foresee the likelihood of first increasing troop levels.
Lawrence Di Rita, spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, noted yesterday that troop levels were raised in January during Iraq's first elections, and then returned to the current level of about 138,000 several weeks later.
"It's perfectly plausible to assume we'll do the same thing for this election," he said, while stressing that no decisions had been made.
Di Rita said he did not know how many extra troops might be needed during the referendum and election period.
Other officials have said that once the election period has passed and the troop total recedes to the 138,000 level, a further reduction of 20,000 to 30,000 is possible next spring and summer. That could change, however, if the insurgency intensifies or an insufficient number of U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces prove themselves battle-ready.
In January the U.S. troop level rose as high as 160,000. This was accomplished mainly by overlapping some units arriving in Iraq to begin a one-year tour with those who were ending their yearlong tours. In at least one case, an Army brigade was kept a little longer than its scheduled 12 months in Iraq, and Di Rita said he could not rule out this happening again this fall, although the intention is to avoid tours longer than 12 months.
"The units that are there have been told to expect that," he said. "It's possible that your planned rotation dates back to the U.S. will be affected by the need to keep a higher level for a longer period of time. They understand that."
Di Rita said commanders may also ask for volunteers to serve extended tours.
Another possibility is that some U.S.-based troops will be sent to Iraq to augment the force during the election period. One unit called upon most frequently for that kind of duty is the 82nd Airborne Division, which currently is deploying a battalion to Afghanistan to bolster security in advance of Sept. 18 elections there.
Di Rita said no elements of the 82nd had been alerted to prepare for similar duty in Iraq this fall.
U.S. commanders predict a need for extra troops this fall in Iraq because the insurgents have tended to intensify their attacks when key political milestones approached. If a draft constitution is ready by Monday, as intended, then a national referendum on that charter is to be held Oct. 15, followed by December elections based on the constitution.
Rumsfeld recently mentioned his expectation that insurgent violence will increase in the weeks ahead.
"We can reasonably expect — both in Afghanistan and in Iraq — to see an increase of violence as they continue to move towards their political goals: in the case of Afghanistan, September 18th — the provincial and the parliamentary elections — and in the case of Iraq, the referendum on October 15th for the constitution," he said last month.
Among the Army units scheduled to deploy to Iraq in coming months is the 101st Airborne Division, which was part of the original invasion force in 2003 and returned home early in 2004, as well as the 4th Infantry Division, which arrived in Iraq shortly after the fall of Baghdad in April 2003. Those two divisions have since been reorganized and now have four combat brigades each, rather than three each.
• Gunmen killed nine policemen in Baghdad today in a string of near simultaneous attacks, police said.
Assailants opened fire on a police patrol in eastern Baghdad, killing five officers, said Lt. Col. Ahmed Aboud. The policemen had been asleep in their vehicle when two carloads of gunmen fired on them around 8 a.m., he said.
The men had spent the night on patrol and fell asleep as they were waiting to be replaced by another patrol, he said. Their weapons were all in the back seat, he said.
In another attack in the southern Dora neighborhood, armed gunmen assassinated police Capt. Haidir Mizhir Salih and another policeman as they were heading to work.
In a third drive-by shooting, unknown assailants fired on a police car, killing two officers and wounding their driver.
• Marines discovered a car-bomb factory yesterday in a western Iraqi town near where 20 members of the same unit were killed last week, the U.S. military said.
Six vehicles rigged with explosives were found in the hide-out in Haqlaniyah, one in a cluster of towns in western Anbar province long believed to be a stronghold of Iraqi insurgents and foreign fighters.
• Saddam Hussein's family said yesterday it has dissolved his Jordan-based legal team, canceling the power of attorney it had given to international lawyers in a move seen as reorganizing the ousted leader's legal counsel ahead of his upcoming trial.
Saddam's family said it has appointed Khalil Dulaimi as the "one and sole legal counsel."
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.