Pentagon deploys new troops to Iraq, with a twist

The deployment will include four brigades aimed at training and advising Iraqis – a nod to America's slow pullback from the front lines.

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

The Pentagon announced new troop deployments Tuesday that begin to formalize the role of soldiers in Iraq as advisers to Iraqi forces instead of combatants gunning for insurgents.

This year and next, the Pentagon will deploy four new units called Advisory and Assistance Brigades to Iraq. The US military has been advising the Iraqi security forces for several years, but this is the first time the Defense Department has designed a training unit tailored to the needs of Iraq. It reflects the more prominent training role that is emerging for American troops there.

All combat troops will leave Iraq by August 2010, and all other forces are scheduled to be gone by the end of 2011 unless separate agreements are made between the US and Iraq. There are currently 128,000 US troops in Iraq.

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The deployment of the four new units of about 3,500 soldiers each will take place between this fall and next spring. Ultimately, the Pentagon will send to Iraq at least two more Advisory and Assistance Brigades, or AABs, which could deploy in separate units like the ones being deployed currently, infused into traditional combat brigades, or some combination of the two.

The units include more civil engineers, military police, and logistics personnel. They may also include military or civilian specialists to help foster Iraqi rule of law, governance, economic development, and cultural advising, defense officials say.

Training for the new units differs from that of the traditional combat units. It includes more scenarios and role-playing.

"This is a totally different mission than a full-spectrum combat mission," said Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, in detailing the new units Tuesday.

The Pentagon also announced the deployment of three combat brigade units to relieve combat forces winding up their tours in Iraq.

All US combat forces have been removed from Iraqi cities in accordance with a June 30 deadline, according to Gen. Ray Odierno, the top US commander in Iraq.

Only training and advising personnel remain in the cities, he told reporters June 30. The Iraqi forces still need American assistance as they continue to develop their capabilities, US commanders say.

That has raised questions about whether the removal of American combat forces is more a show to the American and Iraqi public than an actual change in mission. US forces retain the ability to carry out offensive operations if need be, but that is no longer their primary mission, General Odierno said.

He would not say how many forces remained in advisory roles but maintained that their mission is different than what it had been.

"If you're here in Baghdad, you would know," Odierno said. "There is a significant change inside of the cities."

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