Hearst D.C. Bureau Reports Second Iraq ‘Surge’ Planned; Pentagon Denies

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By: Joe Strupp

Hearst newspapers reported Tuesday that the Bush Administration is planning a second “surge” in Iraq, claiming officials are “quietly on track to nearly double the number of combat troops in Iraq this year” and citing an analysis of Pentagon deployment orders.

“The little-noticed second surge, designed to reinforce U.S. troops in Iraq, is being executed by sending more combat brigades and extending tours of duty for troops already there,” the story, by Washington correspondent Stewart M. Powell, reports.

Powell said he spent 10 days collecting and analyzing deployment orders for 36 different units and their planned deployment in Iraq through December 2008. “We took the announced deployments and tracked them month by month,” he told E&P. “This is just laying the groundwork for what could be a sizeable combat force.”

Powell’s story added that the actions could boost the number of combat soldiers “from 52,500 in early January to as many as 98,000 by the end of this year if the Pentagon overlaps arriving and departing combat brigades.”

The report notes that, with the additional troops, the number of U.S. soldiers in Iraq could jump from 162,000 to more than 200,000 — “a record-high number” — by the end of the year.

Army spokesman Lt. Col. Carl S. Ey denied the report, according to Powell. “There isn’t a second surge going on; we’ve got what we’ve got,” Ey told him. “The idea that there are ever going to be more combat brigades in theater in the future than the secretary of defense has authorized is pure speculation.”

Powell added that Ey attributed the increase in troops to “temporary increases that typically occur during the crossover period” as arriving combat brigades move into position to replace departing combat brigades.

“It doesn’t surprise me that they’re not talking about it,” Powell quoted retired Army Maj. Gen. William Nash, a former U.S. commander of NATO troops in Bosnia, as saying. “I think they would be very happy not to have any more attention paid to this.”

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