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THE WORLD

Army Extends Tours in Iraq

Thousands of National Guard and reserve troops will stay months longer than planned.

September 09, 2003|From Times Wire Services

WASHINGTON — The Army has ordered thousands of National Guard and reserve troops in Iraq to extend their tours in the country to a year, months longer than many anticipated, Army officials said Monday.

Retired Army Maj. Gen. William L. Nash, now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said, "What it means is that for the troops who are there now, they are going to have to serve longer than they expected -- and be surprised about that -- because of the time necessary to organize and prepare" replacements.

Defense officials have had authority since the Sept. 11 attacks to activate Guard and reserve troops for two years, but most have been called for only a year of total service, which has included weeks or months of training in the United States before heading to Iraq, as well as debriefings once they return.

The new order requiring 12-month tours on the ground in Iraq or surrounding countries means that many Guard and reserve troops could have their original yearlong mobilizations extended for one to six months, Army officials said.

Steve Stromvall, a spokesman for the Army Reserves at Ft. McPherson, Ga., said many Guard and reserve forces in Iraq and Kuwait would not be "pleasantly surprised" by the new policy, which is still being disseminated.

The Army issued the new policy late Friday but made no formal announcement. It applies to units now serving and does not affect troops deploying in the future.

The estimated 122,000 Army troops in Iraq include 3,000 National Guard soldiers and 5,000 reservists, Army officials said. Another 5,000 Guard soldiers and 7,000 reservists are in Kuwait, they said.

Securing postwar Iraq continues to be a problem.

On Monday, saboteurs set fire to a critical oil pipeline that runs 20 miles from the Jabour oil field to the northeastern city of Kirkuk. Firefighters had the fire under control by nightfall; about 300 yards of the pipeline was damaged.

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