WASHINGTON – The Pentagon is preparing to alert eight National Guard units that they should be ready to go to Iraq or Afghanistan beginning late next summer, the Associated Press learned Wednesday.
The U.S. military is reaching out to more Guard units in an effort to maintain needed troop levels, ease some of the strain on the active-duty Army and provide security.
According to defense officials, seven of the units would deploy to Iraq and one to Afghanistan. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the orders had not yet been signed and the announcement is not expected until the end of this week.
Two of the units will be full combat brigades heading to Iraq – between next summer and into 2009, to serve as part of the rotation with active-duty troops. There are 20 combat brigades in Iraq, but under plans mapped out by President Bush and his top commanders, that number will gradually drop to 15 next year.
There are now 171,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, largely because several units are overlapping as some move in and others leave. Once those transitions are complete and the drawdown begins, the level could drop to as low as 135,000.
Specific brigades were not identified, but they will include units from North Carolina, Oklahoma, Illinois and Hawaii, according to officials.
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