Pentagon Expected To Alert 13,000 Guard Troops For 2008 Iraq Tours

Friday, April 6th 2007, 4:34 pm
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ About 13,000 National Guard troops are expected to be notified soon they could be sent to Iraq around the first of next year, military officials say. The alert is expected to affect Oklahoma, Indiana and Arkansas.

If the assignments to Iraq are ultimately approved by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, it would be the first time full Guard combat brigades were sent back to Iraq for a second tour.

The units would serve as replacement forces in the regular unit rotation for the war, and would not be connected to the recent military buildup for security operations in Baghdad.

A senior defense official, who requested anonymity because the information has not yet been released, said Friday that four Guard brigades, or about 13,000 troops, were likely to be notified. Another military official confirmed the units would come from Oklahoma, Indiana and Arkansas, as well as one other state.

About two-thirds of the troops that would be affected have never been to Iraq, the defense official said. Smaller units and individual troops from the Guard have already returned to Iraq for longer periods, and some active duty units have served multiple tours.

The official said mobilization or deployment of the units would depend upon conditions on the ground in Iraq.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Friday the plan is more evidence that the military is stretched too thin. Reid, D-Nev., said he is worried the war in Iraq is draining the Guard's ability to defend the homeland.

``President Bush has done more than anyone to damage troop readiness, which are at levels not seen since the Vietnam War,'' Reid said in a statement.

The troop alerts come as President Bush and Congress wrestle over legislation that would set timelines for troop withdrawals from Iraq.

Nearly two months ago, Bush asked for more than $100 billion to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan this year. Congress has approved the money, but the Senate added a provision calling for most U.S. combat troops to be out of Iraq by March 31, 2008. The House version demands a September 2008 withdrawal. Bush has vowed to veto any legislation that includes such deadlines.

According to defense and Guard officials, the first Guard units could go as soon as late December with others following over the next six months. They would be sent only if commanders in Iraq determined the troops were needed.

About 270,000 of the more than 347,000 Army Guard soldiers have served in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.