Saturday, February 17, 2007

Pentagon accelerates deployment of division HQ of 1,000 to Baghdad

Soldiers of the 3rd Infantry returning from their first tour of duty in Iraq in August, 2003. This new deployment 3 months ahead of schedule will be the unit's third tour in Iraq.

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon said Friday it is sending an Army division headquarters staff of about 1,000 soldiers to Baghdad three months ahead of schedule, a move intended to improve the Army's ability to command and control the thousands of extra combat troops that President Bush has ordered to Iraq.

The 3rd Infantry Division headquarters staff will deploy from Fort Stewart, Ga., next month - about three months earlier than previously planned, according to an Army statement. It said family members have been notified of the change.

It is the 3rd Infantry's third deployment to Iraq; the first was during the initial invasion in 2003.

The decision to send them early is related to Bush's decision to deploy an extra five Army brigades - about 17,500 soldiers - to Baghdad as part of the president's new approach to stabilizing the country amid growing sectarian violence.

There currently is just one Army division headquarters staff in Baghdad - the 1st Cavalry Division. That unit's commander, Maj. Gen. Joseph Fil, Jr., told Pentagon reporters Friday by video teleconference from Baghdad that he saw no need for another division headquarters staff, but he said the matter was being studied.

"I've told my bosses that it's just fine, that we do not have a command-and-control issue right now," he said.

Fil also said he has requested an unspecified number of extra attack helicopters and combat engineers, and he said U.S. and U.S.-trained Iraqi army troops face a determined and ruthless foe in the capital region.

"They have a thirst for blood like I have never seen anywhere before," Fil said.

Read the rest at the San Jose Mercury News