For the second time in two months, the Pentagon announced Monday it was extending the combat tour of a brigade of U.S. Army soldiers in Iraq, the Los Angeles Times reported.[1]  --  A defense analyst at MIT said:  "It does tell you the Army is under terrible strain.  If they could cut back to 60,000, it could be sustained.  But this level cannot."  --  The brigade in question is "overseeing military operations in Ramadi," Julian E. Barnes reported.  --  Other units being sent to Iraq are having their deployment schedules accelerated, and concerns are being expressed about the adequacy of the training they are receiving.  --  The Washington Post citing Lynn Davis, a senior Rand Corp. analyst and lead author of a 2005 report on Army deployments titled "Stretched Thin," reported Tuesday that "The number of Army combat brigades in Iraq and Afghanistan would have to fall by about half — to 10 — to achieve the Army's goal of two years at home. . . . In contrast, soldiers in today's armored, mechanized and Stryker brigades, which are most in demand, can expect to be away from home for 'a little over 45 percent of their career.'"[2] ...

1.

The Conflict in Iraq

SOLDIERS IN FOR EXTENDED TOUR OF DUTY
By Julian E. Barnes

** A brigade of 4,000 in Ramadi will stay on 46 days longer. Meanwhile, a stateside unit will deploy 30 days earlier to relieve another group. **

Los Angeles Times
September 26, 2006

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-troops26sep26,1,4149783.story?coll=la-headlines-world

WASHINGTON -- In the latest sign of pressure on troop strength from growing violence in Iraq, the Pentagon said Monday that it had extended the combat tour of 4,000 soldiers, the second time in as many months that an Army brigade has seen its yearlong deployment lengthened.

The 1st Brigade of the 1st Armored Division, which is assigned to Ramadi, the capital of volatile Al Anbar province, will remain in Iraq an additional 46 days, defense officials said. Originally scheduled to leave Iraq in January, the brigade is now due to return to its base in Germany in late February.

Coming after this summer's announcement that an Alaska-based brigade would have its tour prolonged, analysts said, the extension of the 1st Brigade's assignment was the latest sign that the U.S. military was having a difficult time sustaining the 145,000-strong troop level in Iraq.

"It does tell you the Army is under terrible strain," said Cindy Williams, a defense analyst with the security studies program at MIT. "If they could cut back to 60,000, it could be sustained. But this level cannot."

The 1st Brigade oversees military operations in Ramadi, where Sunni Arab insurgents opposed to the Shiite-dominated central government have waged a steady series of roadside bombings and other guerrilla-style attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces. The 1st Brigade, which also has other Army and Marine units attached to it, has spent the summer trying to pacify the area by establishing a series of combat outposts.

Also on Monday, the Pentagon announced it would speed up the scheduled deployment of another brigade to relieve the Alaska unit, the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team. The 4th Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division, originally scheduled to deploy in late October, will now leave for Iraq 30 days earlier. The brigade, based at Ft. Bliss, Texas, will replace the 172nd.

On July 27, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld approved a request to extend the tour of the 172nd, even as the first members of the unit had begun returning home. The four-month extension would have kept the Stryker brigade in Iraq until mid-December, prompting protests from relatives of the troops. The new schedule would bring the soldiers home before Thanksgiving.

"There's no question but that any time there's a war, the forces of the countries involved are asked to do a great deal," Rumsfeld said Monday in response to questions about the latest extension. "From time to time there may be units that will be asked to increase the number of days in-country from what had been anticipated. On the other hand, we're also bringing you some other units in earlier, which is another way of dealing with that issue."

But Army officials said they were becoming increasingly worried about the amount of time combat-bound units had to train before deploying to Iraq.

A primary reason for the 1st Armored Division brigade's extension was to give the Army unit taking its place, the 1st Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division, more time to prepare for its third combat tour.

"We've never sent a unit over there not prepared," said an Army official. "The 1st Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division needs more time."

The 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Brigade returned home to Ft. Stewart, Ga., at the beginning of this year and would have been in the U.S. for only 11 months before returning to Iraq. With the 1st Armored Division's extension, the brigade will leave for its third tour in January 2007.

"Having a full year at home is very important for families," the Army official said.

Ideally, the Army would prefer to have a unit deployed overseas one year out of every three. Because of the demands of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army is averaging about 14 months at home for its active-duty brigades. But units have more to do in those months as they train new soldiers, acquire skills for the changing fight in Iraq and learn how to use new equipment.

Michelle Joyner, a spokeswoman for the National Military Families Assn., said the short periods home between rotations to Iraq and extensions of combat tours were very difficult for families.

"The time home is getting shorter and shorter, and it is not like it used to be," she said. "It is 12-hour shifts and constant preparation. They are home, but they are not home."

But extending the tours is hardly a good solution, Joyner said. Homecoming celebrations have to be shelved, and vacations canceled or postponed.

"To have an extension is an emotional blow," she said. "Once you are talking about the second birthday missed, the second anniversary missed, that becomes very hard."

Iraq veterans of the 1st Armored Division are no strangers to extensions. In 2004, in an effort to quell the rising insurgency, the division's yearlong deployment was extended by 90 days during its first Iraq tour.

Lawrence J. Korb, a senior advisor to the Center for Defense Information, said that unless the government removed caps on the Army's use of National Guard units in Iraq, future extensions were unavoidable.

"The fact that you have to extend people says that you don't have any more ready to replace them," Korb said. "We don't have enough troops because we had not planned to keep this many this long."

2.

World

Middle East

Iraq

U.S. EXTENDS IRAQ TOUR FOR ANOTHER ARMY UNIT
By Ann Scott Tyson

** Order Reinforces Doubts About Troop Cuts **

Washington Post
September 26, 2006
Page A16

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/25/AR2006092501139.html

The Pentagon yesterday delayed for six weeks the return home of about 4,000 U.S. soldiers in Iraq's volatile Anbar province -- the second extension of U.S. forces in the country in two months -- as the insurgency and rising sectarian violence exert heavier demands on a stretched American ground force.

A brigade of the Army's 1st Armored Division, operating in Anbar's contested capital of Ramadi, has been ordered to stay on for 46 more days. Another brigade -- from the 1st Cavalry Division based at Fort Hood, Tex. -- will depart a month early, in late October, for a year of combat duty in Iraq.

"There's no question but that any time there's a war, the forces of the countries involved are asked to do a great deal," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said when asked about the troop decisions at the Pentagon yesterday.

According to a Pentagon announcement, the shift is necessary to "maintain the current force structure in Iraq into the spring of next year." That confirms an assessment last week by Gen. John P. Abizaid, the senior U.S. commander in the Middle East, that no cuts in the more than 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq are likely before next spring.

It also demonstrates the increasingly tough trade-offs U.S. commanders face between the imperatives of war fighting and the need to retrain and recuperate the taxed Army and Marine Corps.

In this case, commanders had to choose between extending thousands of U.S. troops serving in one of Iraq's deadliest cities -- the 1st Armored Division brigade in Ramadi -- or requiring another combat-hardened unit that has already served two tours in Iraq, a brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division, to return to the desert after less than a year at home. They opted for the former.

"The chief of staff of the Army refuses to compromise on the one-year dwell time," said an Army official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record. The chief of staff is Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, and "dwell time" refers to the amount of time troops have at home between deployments to retrain, repair equipment and reconnect with their families.

"If they didn't do this, the . . . dwell time for 3rd Infantry Division would be 11 months, so that's a no-go," the official said.

Still, the extension prolonged the hardship for the 1st Armored Division soldiers, based in Friedberg, Germany, and their families, who were notified yesterday, the official said. The Pentagon statement acknowledged the "continued contributions" of the soldiers in Ramadi and their families, saying the "extension reflects the continued commitment of the United States to the security of the Iraqi people."

In July, the Pentagon extended the Iraq tour of the 172nd Stryker Brigade, based at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, for about four months.

The Army set a goal in 2003 of allowing active-duty soldiers to spend two years at home for every year overseas. But that aim has proved elusive because of the limited number of active-duty combat brigades available to deploy -- currently 36 -- as well as the continued high troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 20,000 U.S. troops are now serving in Afghanistan, according to Army figures.

Active-duty soldiers today can expect to spend no more than a year at home between deployments, said Lynn Davis, a senior Rand Corp. analyst and lead author of a 2005 report on Army deployments titled "Stretched Thin." The number of Army combat brigades in Iraq and Afghanistan would have to fall by about half -- to 10 -- to achieve the Army's goal of two years at home, she said. In contrast, soldiers in today's armored, mechanized and Stryker brigades, which are most in demand, can expect to be away from home for "a little over 45 percent of their career," she said.