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war in Iraq cripples American military

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  • thekoba@aztecfreenet.org
    The following article, attributed to Esther Schrader of the Los Angeles Times, appeared on page A22 of the Saturday, December 6, 2003 edition of the Arizona
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 6, 2003
      The following article, attributed to Esther Schrader of the Los Angeles
      Times, appeared on page A22 of the Saturday, December 6, 2003 edition of
      the Arizona Republic.

      --Kevin Walsh

      IRAQ DUTY STRAINS AMERICAN ARMY TO DANGER POINT

      Washington--Its equipment and troops battered from fighting in Iraq, the
      Army will allow four divisions returning from combat duty to fall to
      readiness levels that would make them not fully combat ready for up to six
      months, an Army official said Friday.

      The divisions, which together make up more than 100,000 soldiers, 40
      percent of the army's combat troops, are reeling from yearlong deployments
      fighting a war, then a counterinsurgency that has wreaked havoc with
      everything from tank treads to helicopter rotors to nerves.

      By permitting the units to drop their guard and recharge, the Pentagon is
      taking a calculated risk that it won't be forced to fight a war with a major
      adversary such as North Korea on short notice. Not since the all-volunteer
      military began in 1973 has the army allowed so many units to fall to such
      low readiness levels.

      "We have a non-negotiable contract with the U.S. people that our army will
      always be ready to fight and win its wars," said the senior army official
      who briefed a small group of reporters on the plans Friday on the condition
      of anonymity. The briefing came after the Army's plan was disclosed in the
      Wall Street Journal. "But this is a fact of life. What we are seeing now
      is the operational tempo of our army is going to require time to reset our
      equipment, reset our training, reset our soldiers so we can build this army
      back up."

      The four divisions--the 82nd Airborne, 101st Airborne, First Armored and
      Fourth Infantry--will be replaced by four other divisions beginning in
      February as part of a nearly complete rotation of troops in Iraq and
      Afghanistan.

      President Bush could take political heat for the decline in readiness. During
      his run for president in 2000, he struck hard at President Clinton for
      permitting two small divisions just back from missions in the Balkans to
      lower their readiness levels for four months.

      Because of the toll that Iraq has taken on the Army's equipment, not to
      mention its personnel, it could take six months to bring some units returning
      from the war zone back up to speed, the Army official said.

      On Capitol Hill, lawmakers said the news is indicative of an Army stretched
      too thin by a war it was not prepared for or designed to fight.

      "The Army will always march at the sound of the guns regardless of the
      condition they are in. But the reality is, they're not going to go with
      the same kind of efficiency and force that they were prepared to go six
      months or a year ago," said Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island,
      who has proposed increasing the size of the Army. "They would have to
      scramble, they would have to divert resources that are scheduled to go to
      Iraq and Afghanistan, they would have to improvise."

      Senior army officials say that while they have not discounted the possibility
      of asking for more troops, they are trying to make do with what they have.
      Privately, they have expressed concern that the expense of adding soldiers
      would force them to draw from funding for modernization and maintenance.

      The Army's move comes as the war on terrorism and other commitments are
      straining the military for the first time since overall troop levels were
      reduced more than a decade ago in the wake of the Cold War.

      About 369,000 of the Army's 1.04 million active-duty and reserve troops
      are deployed away from home in 120 countries. That includes about 150,000
      in Iraq and elsewhere in the Persian Gulf region in support of the war, and
      another 10,000 in Afghanistan. Another 5,000 are in the Balkans and 30,000
      in South Korea.
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