July 31, 2007 - The Pentagon announced today that it will rotate 20,000 soldiers into Iraq at the end of this year but denied the troops would extend President Bush's troop "surge" through next spring.
CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr reported that a "worst case scenario" would stretch military ranks as troops leave for their 15-month rotations.
"They may have to reach down into the National Guard or Army Reserve" to maintain the troop levels, said Starr.
Military commanders began to expect earlier this year that the surge would have to be extended into next year. In an article that appeared in the Washington Post in May, Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, who manages day-to-day operations in Iraq, said the surge needed to last "through the beginning of next year, for sure." Odierno noted at the time that new regulations extending tours of duty to 15 months would allow for the surge to last through spring 2008.
"These will be the replacement troops on a 15 month tour of duty, as the troops that are there finish up their tours of duty," said Starr. "Reading between the lines, what is interesting here, is these troops will allow the Pentagon to maintain the status quo."
Starr said troop shortages will hamper efforts to maintain the increased troop presence.
"Fifteen combat brigades [will move] into Iraq in 2008, not the twenty combat brigades of the surge," she said. "It is well understood that they simply don't have enough troops to maintain that surge much past the spring of 2008."
A Pentagon spokesman denied that the troops would be continuing the surge, citing that the new troops would be rotating in for only 15 brigades, not the current 20 brigades comprising the post-surge troops. However, the Pentagon did not say which units were being rotated out of Iraq. The final troops of Bush's 28,000-troop surge arrive in Iraq in June.