WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon said on Tuesday it told another 35,000 U.S. soldiers they were in line to go to Iraq, a move that gives commanders enough forces to maintain a security crackdown there through at least the end of the year.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the decision was not related to the military’s so-called “surge.” But the replacement forces offer generals the flexibility to maintain heightened troop levels through 2007.
“This deployment announcement of the next 10 units that are in the queue has nothing to do with a decision to extend the surge,” Whitman said.
“It would be inaccurate to look at this announcement today as some sort of decision with respect to the surge. ... It is simply identifying units that will receive deployment orders,” he said.
Asked if the decision gives commanders the ability to maintain higher force numbers in Iraq through 2007, Whitman said the “math would be right on that.”
The Pentagon is increasing troop levels by about 30,000 for a security crackdown focused on Baghdad. U.S. forces in Iraq total 146,000, and will hit about 160,000 once the additional forces are in place.
The Defense Department announcement identified 10 Army units, known as brigade combat teams, in line for deployment between August and December 2007.