Pentagon forces 6,500 troops to return to army service

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The Independent US

The Pentagon is being forced to recall to active service as many as 5,600 army veterans to fill a shortfall of troops needed to pursue President George Bush's "war on terror". The troops will be sent to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Pentagon is being forced to recall to active service as many as 5,600 army veterans to fill a shortfall of troops needed to pursue President George Bush's "war on terror". The troops will be sent to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Utilising a rarely used wartime measure, the Bush administration is calling up the Individual Ready Reserve. That is a force made up of troops who have left the service but who are legally obliged to help out for several years after their discharge should the government decide it necessary. The last time the army recalled large numbers of soldiers in that category was in 1991 when 20,227 were activated for the 1991 Gulf war.

The step is just one of several measures undertaken by the Pentagon to augment forces in Iraq and was yesterday seen by experts as the latest evidence to demonstrate how thinly stretched US forces have become by the conflict. In recent months, the army has also instituted a "stop-loss" policy to prevent thousands of deployed troops from leaving the service on schedule, redeployed more than 3,500 troops from South Korea to Iraq and extended tours of duty for those troops already there.

John Pike, director of the military think-tank GlobalSecurity.org, said: "No one was expecting the war in Iraq to be a protracted affair. Donald Rumsfeld was planning for Ahmed Chalabi to parachute into Iraq and take care of everything. This is not what they were planning for. The army was not designed for this." On Capitol Hill, some members of Congress said the call-up was an unofficial draft and showed the US Army was too small to handle multiple conflicts. Senator Jack Reed, a member of the Armed Services Committee, said the decision showed the Bush administration's planning for the invasion of Iraq was "woefully inadequate".

Rand Beers, a foreign policy speaker for the Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, said: "The fact is that this involuntary call-up is a direct result of the administration's diplomatic failure to get real international help in Iraq."

Pentagon officials told reporters that most of those called up from the reserve would perform logistical and support tasks such as driving and mechanical work. They said the majority of the veterans would be redeployed from California, Texas, New York and Delaware. It is likely that former military police will also be called up.

Military leaders had intended to slowly reduce the size of the US force in Iraq.

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