Iraq tours stretched for 4,000 US troops: Pentagon

WASHINGTON – The US Army will lengthen tours in Iraq for 4,000 soldiers to maintain the US troop level there at 145,000 until next spring, the Pentagon said.

The Defense Department will keep one unit in Iraq 46 days longer and send another unit 30 days earlier than scheduled.

“These adjustments are necessary to maintain the current force structure in Iraq into the Spring of next year,” the Defense Department said in a statement.

The current troop level stands at 145,000.

Last week, General John Abizaid, head of the US Central Command, said more than 140,000 troops will likely remain in country through the spring of 2007.

“In consultation with the new Iraqi government, commanders continue to assess the situation to ensure the appropriate force levels to support the Iraqi government,” the military said.

“The 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Armored Division, based in Friedberg, Germany, will have their tour of duty extended for approximately 46 days,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

The unit was to return home in mid-January and will remain until late February.

That will allow another unit, the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division 12 months to rest, re-equip, train and prepare for its next tour of duty, the Pentagon said.

Another unit, the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Cavalry Division, will go to Iraq 30 days earlier than planned, to head for Iraq in late October.

“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 Rumsfeld said.

“From time to time there may be units that will be asked to increase the number of days in the country from what had been anticipated,” he said.

The Washington Times reported Monday that the Pentagon may look at adding more units to the rotation mix.

“It may accelerate the pace of deployments, or it may mean looking at calling up additional units,” the Washington daily quoted a Pentagon official as saying.