Pentagon: Send In The Marines

U.S. Marines prepare to board a ship during an anti-smuggling operation outside the port of Umm Qasr, in southern Iraq Sunday Oct. 19, 2003. Coalition forces have mounted a campaign to combat the smuggling of oil and other goods from Iraq's southern ports. Officials estimate that 2000 tons of oil, the equivalent of 65 road tanker loads, were being smuggled out of Umm Qasr each day, before the anti-smuggling operation began two weeks ago. AP

Running short of regular Army troops for duty in Iraq, the Pentagon has come up with a solution: send in the Marines, and with them, tens of thousands of reservists, who could be deployed in Iraq for a year or more.

CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin reports the call-ups are part of a new troop rotation plan that will actually reduce the number of American soldiers in Iraq by next spring. The current level of 130,000 troops will come down by several thousand, Pentagon officials say, but still remain above 100,000.

Congress was told about the plan Wednesday with details to be released Thursday.

The overall number of troops battling the resistance in Iraq is expected to go way up since the Pentagon plans to recruit and train a quarter-million Iraqis for security duties. More than 100,000 Iraqis are already under arms and before much longer will outnumber American forces, although their level of training and degree of loyalty remain unanswered questions.

The U.S. had been counting on countries like Turkey, South Korea and Pakistan to provide a division's worth of troops but that no longer appears likely, and the Pentagon has been forced to scramble to make up the difference.

More than 30,000 reservists will have to be called up, taking them away from their jobs for well over a year. Several thousand Marines, who normally are not used for occupation duty but are held in reserve to respond to crises around the world, will also be sent to Iraq in an effort to take some of the burden off the Army, which is so hard-pressed for troops it recently decided to send a company from its ceremonial Old Guard to the Horn of Africa.

The aircraft carrier Nimitz returned home Wednesday after eight months overseas. Before 9-11, that would have been an unusually long deployment, but with all troops in Iraq now expected to serve a one-year tour, eight months away from home doesn't sound so bad.
  • Joel Roberts

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