Washington The Pentagon has decided to dispatch thousands of Marines to Iraq early next year as part of a revised troop rotation that will swell the size of the US occupation by up to 50,000 troops during critical months when the United States hopes to hand off greater security responsibilities to Iraqis, senior defense officials said yesterday.
Pentagon officials say the new plan is aimed at adding manpower to improve security in the short term -- when troop numbers will increase from the current 130,000 to as many as 180,000 -- but also meeting President Bush's goal of shrinking the force to 100,000 by the middle of next year.
Two Marine brigades -- with a total of between 12,000 and 20,000 active and reserve troops -- will be heading to Iraq beginning no earlier than January, the officials said. They will join a force that, under an existing rotation plan, will be temporarily increased by about 30,000, by having more troops arrive before others go home.
The plan will be announced today, officials said.
Yesterday, Marine Corps General Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a congressional hearing that the Pentagon would be 'issuing orders tonight' that 'include a call-up of reserves. It does include use of land forces. It does include the Navy and Air Force.'
I have no idea how this fits in with Rumsfeld's Iraqification claims last Sunday. I guess a week is a long time in making stuff up as you go along.