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Army Will Need Boost in Iraq, Say Analysts

September 03, 2003|From Times Wire Services

WASHINGTON — To keep up its nearly 150,000-strong occupation force in Iraq, the U.S. military soon must expand the Army's size or call in help from the other service branches, according to a report Tuesday by the Congressional Budget Office.

The report said the active Army, which is bearing the brunt of Iraq duty, will have to start reducing forces in Iraq in March if it keeps its plan to limit deployments without relief to a year. Under such a scenario, the Pentagon would be able to sustain only an occupation force of 38,000 to 64,000 for the long term, at a cost of $8 billion to $10 billion a year.

If the Pentagon drew more heavily on the Marines and the National Guard for peacekeeping, the U.S. force could total 67,000 to 106,000, the budget office report said. The annual occupation cost would run from $14 billion to $19 billion, the study said.

A third scenario examined by the budget analysts -- one which Defense Department officials have said they oppose -- would be to create two new Army divisions, plus support units. A division consists of 15,000 to 20,000 troops.

Besides one-time costs of up to $19 billion, such a policy would leave peacekeeping costs in Iraq ranging from $23 billion to $29 billion a year. The U.S. force there would total 85,000 to 129,000.

The congressional study focused only on U.S. military costs. It excluded cost estimates for rebuilding Iraq, which Bush administration officials have said could be tens of billions of dollars.

Military operations in Iraq are now costing $4 billion a month, and both GOP and Democratic lawmakers are complaining about the effect that U.S. involvement there will have on a federal budget already deeply in deficit.

Democrats and Republicans have called on President Bush to seek additional forces from other nations. The administration said Tuesday that it plans to offer the United Nations a greater role in securing and rebuilding Iraq in an attempt to garner greater international support.

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