The US may have to call up large number of additional National Guard and Reserve troops for duty in Iraq, a senior general said today.
Marine Corps General Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said more reservists could be called upon if other countries do not soon pledge thousands more troops to form a third multinational division in Iraq.
“We need to be making decisions about alerting reservists over the next four to six weeks,” he said.
“I would think that by around the end of October or the beginning of November we should be alerting those forces that may need to be called up to relieve or be prepared to relieve (troops there now) if we don’t have specificity by then on a third” multinational division.
He said the Guard and Reserve troops should be notified about four months before they would need to ship out because they require some training time.
When it announced a troop rotation plan in July, the Pentagon assumed that it would have available a third multinational division of 10,000 to 15,000 troops to replace the Army’s 101st Airborne Division early next year.
Britain is leading one multinational division and Poland is leading another.
Among nations mentioned as possibilities for a third division are Turkey, Pakistan, India and South Korea, but none has agreed to do so.
Pace said US Central Command, which is running the military operation in Iraq, may determine that it can find enough active-duty troops to fill any gap next year.
But he indicated that mobilising more National Guard and Reserve troops was an option under active consideration.
Some in the military are concerned that reservists are being asked to shoulder too much of the burden.
Loren Thompson, a defence analyst at the Lexington Institute said Wednesday that few reservists were likely to have realised when they signed up that they would be used so heavily.
“It has to have an impact – a negative one – on retention,” he said. “People’s lives are being obliterated” by lengthy and sometimes frequent mobilisations for duty overseas.