Army chief says US may need to increase troop size because of Iraq, Afghanistan

Tuesday, August 5th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Troop commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan have stretched the U.S. Army and its size may need to be increased, acting Army Chief of Staff Gen. John Keane said Tuesday.

He also said a second international division, led by Poland, should be in Iraq by next month.

``There's no doubt'' more troops are needed, Keane told reporters. ``I've just told you we're short of infantry, we're short of chemical-biological soldiers, we're short of military police.''

But he said before military leaders can come up with a number for an increase in combat troops, they have to see what military slots can be converted to civilian slots. He also said combat support services have to be improved.

``Clearly we're stretched and we know we're short certain skill sets we've got to fix,'' he said. ``That's as specific as I can get until we do the rest of the analysis'' over the next weeks and months.

Keane, who said morale in the Army was the best he has seen in 37 years, is scheduled to retire this summer.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld tried to persuade Keane to take over the chief of staff slot when Gen. Eric Shinseki retired last June, but Keane declined for family reasons, officials said. Rumsfeld then picked Peter J. Schoomaker, a retired Special Operations general for the job. He is awaiting confirmation hearings.

Speaking about deployment of international forces in Iraq, Keane said a British-led division already was operating with Italian, Dutch and Romanian components.

He said a Polish-led division would start operations in September with troops from the Ukraine and Spain.

Keane said negotiations were underway with 11 other nations to establish a third international division that would replace the U.S. 101st Airborne.

He said if these negotiations did not succeed by the fall, U.S military leaders must examine use of some other force either from the Army or the reserves.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, R-Va., reminded Schoomaker that Bush has said the United States will remain in Iraq no longer than needed to bring stability to the country.

At a Senate Foreign Relations hearing last week, Keane said there are about 148,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, a figure unlikely to change much in the near future even if some foreign troops arrive.