Source of Additional Troops for Iraq Unclear

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The Bush administration is currently considering a boost in troop levels. But will troops come from recruiting or a juggling of existing units?


There does seem to be general agreement on at least one of Fred Kaplan's points, that it would be virtually impossible to quickly recruit and train thousands of new troops for a potential surge into Iraq.

NPR's Luke Burbank reports.

LUKE BURBANK: So where exactly would this surge of new soldiers come from?

Professor KEVIN RYAN (Harvard University): These are not guys who are out at the mall who would be recruited, trained and then sent to Iraq. That's not the surge.

BURBANK: Kevin Ryan is a retired brigadier general. These days he's a senior fellow at the Belfer Center at Harvard. His last active duty job, though, was planning strategic policy for the Army - in other words, figuring out who gets surged and when. He says the current plan being considered would have to draw from...

Prof. RYAN: Soldiers in units that have been in Iraq, some have just come home. You're going to shorten their rest. You're going to bring them back into Iraq, or you're going - in the case of Guards - you're going to re-mobilize them, some of them involuntarily.

BURBANK: Remobilizing those National Guard troops could be complicated, maybe even requiring changes in current law, says Ryan. He figures the load would be spread out evenly between active duty soldiers and reservists.

Even though no official decision has been made as to if this surge will even happen, Ryan says military officials are probably already starting to think about which specific brigades would be going.

Prof. RYAN: Trying to figure out a pecking order or a queue, if you will, of who would be the first if we had to send one, the second if two and so on down the line.

BURBANK: So it's possible that even as we speak, there are, you know, high-level folks who are making decisions that are going to - potentially, in months to come - filter down to some guy missing his kid's soccer game.

Prof. RYAN: That's kind of the negative way to think about it.

BURBANK: Ryan says the positive way to think about it is that that means if there is a surge, the best, most prepared, most supported soldiers will be the ones tapped to do the job.

He says throughout the war, morale within the military has actually been higher than even the Pentagon expected. He says it remains to be seen, though, how long that will go on.

Luke Burbank, NPR News.

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