WASHINGTON – The Pentagon announced a plan Monday that will send 92,000 fresh troops to Iraq beginning in mid-2006, but officials warned that overall troop strength would depend on how Iraq’s security situation evolves.
The troop rotation plan includes soldiers from eight active-duty Army brigades, an active support command and one National Guard brigade. The rotations are for one year. Included in Monday’s announcement was the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, from Fort Lewis.
The plan also reduces the number of National Guardsmen in Iraq. Earlier this year, National Guardsmen constituted about 40 percent of U.S. ground forces, and some critics have complained that the military was relying too much on part-time troops whom they argue should be used at home for disaster relief and homeland defense.
Troop strength in Iraq has remained at about 138,000 for much of the last year, but it was increased before the October constitutional referendum to about 160,000 in anticipation of more insurgent attacks. U.S. troops in Iraq currently number around 150,000, and they’re expected to remain at that level through the December elections before dropping back to 138,000, according to military officials.
In Iraq on Monday, a suicide bomber blew up his vehicle at a checkpoint south of Baghdad and killed four American soldiers, the military said.
The suicide attack came as U.S. and Iraqi troops battled al-Qaida-led militants for a third day in Husaybah, a town on the Syrian border that the military describes as a major entry point for foreign fighters.
Al-Qaida in Iraq warned the Iraqi government to halt the offensive in Husaybah within 24 hours or see “the earth … shake beneath their feet.”