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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Several thousand additional Marines will go to Iraq next year, the Pentagon said Wednesday in an update that indicated the total U.S. force won't be reduced as much as planned.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld also approved the mobilization of 9,900 Army, 1,290 Navy and 3,208 Air Force reserve personnel for the rotation, which will begin in January to replace the 130,000 troops who will be completing one-year tours of duty in Iraq.
Rumsfeld also put on alert 4,228 Army, 1,290 Navy and 2,381 Air Force reservists, to let them know they may be mobilized for duty in Iraq. The specific units alerted and mobilized Wednesday were not disclosed; the Pentagon says they can expect to be on active duty for up to 18 months.
The Pentagon had announced on Nov. 6 most of the details of its rotation plan, which called for relying more heavily on the National Guard and Reserve, while reducing the total number of American troops to about 105,000 by the time the rotation was completed in May.
Although no numbers were provided by the Pentagon, it appears the total number by May will be closer to 110,000, counting the additional Marines.
For reasons not explained in the announcement Wednesday, the Pentagon said it had decided to send an additional three battalions of Marines. Those would be beyond the 20,000 who were designated on Nov. 6. The initial group of 20,000 is headed by the 1st Marine Division, from Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Wednesday's announcement did not say how many Marines would be in the three battalions. Officials said the total, including support and service support troops associated with the combat battalion, had not yet been determined. They estimated it would be in the range of several thousand.
The Pentagon has struggled to set the troop rotation for 2004 because of the Bush administration's inability so far to persuade its international partners to contribute significant troops. Turkey had offered to send thousands but has balked in the face of Iraqi political opposition. South Korea has offered 3,000 troops, but it has not yet said whether they would be combat troops -- as preferred by the Pentagon -- or support forces to do humanitarian work.
Japan also has offered support forces but has not said when they would be made available.
Rumsfeld also approved on Wednesday the mobilization of 2,995 Army, 100 Marine Corps and five Air Force reservists for a rotation of U.S. forces in Afghanistan next spring. That brings to 6,906 the number of National Guard and Reserve personnel who have been mobilized for that rotation. The main active-duty unit in the rotation is the Army's 25th Infantry Division.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)