Army too stretched if Iraq buildup lasts

By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Sapped by nearly six years of war, the Army has nearly exhausted its fighting force and its options if the Bush administration decides to extend the Iraq buildup beyond next spring.

The Army’s 38 available combat units are deployed, just returning home or already tapped to go to Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere, leaving no fresh troops to replace five extra brigades that President Bush sent to Baghdad this year, according to interviews and military documents reviewed by The Associated Press.

That presents the Pentagon with several painful choices if the U.S. wants to maintain higher troop levels beyond the spring of 2008:

  • Using National Guard units on an accelerated schedule.
  • Breaking the military’s pledge to keep soldiers in Iraq for no longer than 15 months.
  • Breaching a commitment to give soldiers a full year at home before sending them back to war.

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