WASHINGTON (AP) The Pentagon is developing plans that for the first time would send entire National Guard combat brigades back to Iraq for a second tour, the Guard's top general said in the latest sign of how thinly stretched the military has become.
Smaller combat units and individual troops from the Guard have already returned to Iraq for longer periods, and some active duty units have served multiple tours. Brigades generally have about 3,500 troops.
The move, which could include brigades from North Carolina, Florida, Arkansas and Indiana, would force the Pentagon to make the first large-scale departure from its previous decision not to deploy reserves for more than a cumulative 24 months in Iraq.
For some units, a second tour would mean they would likely exceed that two-year maximum. The planning was described by Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, who commands the Guard, in an Associated Press interview this week.
In a related move, the Pentagon is preparing to release a list of active units, and perhaps reserves as well, scheduled to go to Iraq that would largely maintain the current level of forces there over the next two years, another senior defense official said on Thursday. There are about 152,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.
That official requested anonymity because the plan has not been made public.
The Pentagon routinely notifies units to prepare for deployment, knowing it is easier to cancel a move overseas than to suddenly make such a large troop movement.