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Tours Extended For Iraq Troops

The Army has told thousands of National Guardsmen and Reservists that their stays in Iraq or the region will extended to a full year, a newspaper reports.

The Washington Post is also reporting that before the war, intelligence services warned the Bush administration that the U.S. occupation force would face stiff, armed opposition. According to one senior official, the reports said that the period after Saddam Hussein's ouster might be more dangerous than the war itself.

That's proven to be the case, as most of the 287 Americans who've died in Iraq have perished after the May 1 declaration of the end of major combat.

Violence continued Tuesday. Three U.S. soldiers were injured when their Humvee hit a mine on the road near Fallujah, west of the capital, witnesses said. The 4th Infantry Division, meanwhile, reported a soldier was seriously injured in a mortar attack Monday near the town of Balad, north of Baghdad.

In other developments:

  • A car bomb exploded Tuesday outside an office used by U.S soldiers in northern Iraq, according to broadcast reports. Several people were reported wounded. The wounded included Iraqi Kurdish guards and children from nearby houses. It was unclear if Americans were among them. Firefighters rushed to the scene.
  • Even President Bush's new $87 billion funding request won't be enough to rebuild Iraq, administration officials tell The Los Angeles Times. Foreign donors will be asked to foot the remaining $55 billion. Administration officials admit they underestimated the costs of securing and rebuilding Iraq.
  • Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Joint Chiefs Chairman General Richard Myers face questioning over the budget request Tuesday. Congress is expected to pass the measure, but may demand more input that when it approved $79 billion for the war in April.
  • U.S. forces have released four suspects in last month's attack on a mosque in Najaf, which killed more than 100 people, The Times report. Three more are in custody but they also might be released for lack of evidence.
  • The Arab League in the early hours of Tuesday granted the fledgling Iraqi Governing Council the Baghdad seat on the 22-member pan-Arab body. The decision was the league's first to officially recognize the U.S.-appointed council as an authority able to represent Iraq on the regional stage.
  • While sporadic attacks continue against U.S. forces, Tuesday marked the eighty day running that the U.S. military reported no combat deaths in a rare period of calm.
  • Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Monday that Criticism of the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, both overseas and from Democrats in the United States, makes fighting the war on terrorism more difficult. "But that doesn't mean there shouldn't be a debate," Rumsfeld said.
  • Rumsfeld said he is not keeping track of the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, saying "It's an intelligence issue."

    The Pentagon has the power to call up reservists and guardsmen for up to two years, The Washington Post reported, but most personnel have been activated for stints lasting one year total, including weeks of training. Now, those troops will be required to be on the ground in Iraq or surrounding countries for a full year.

    There are worries the move may hurt recruiting for the Guard and Reserve. A total of 8,000 Guard soldiers and 12,000 reservists are in Iraq or Kuwait. Another 108,000 Guard and Reserve personnel have been mobilized for service elsewhere — ten times the annual average during the 1990s.

    Army officials said security problems and the scarcity active-duty troops made the move necessary. Half the Army's combat force is in Iraq, says The Post, and by next year eight of the Army's 10 divisions will have served either in Afghanistan or Iraq.

    The CIA's prewar warnings suggested Baath Party members had plans to resist the U.S. occupation, and that could become "a laboratory for terrorists," according to a former intelligence analyst who spoke to The Post.

    On Tuesday, firefighters smothered a pipeline fire in the north of the country that had been set by saboteurs a day earlier. It was the fifth such attack on the oil delivery system in less than a month. The acts of sabotage have shut the export pipeline to Turkey and are costing the country an estimated $7 million a day.

    Adel al-Qazzaz, the director general of the Northern Oil Co., said the line had been carrying 35,000 barrels a day from the Janbour oil field 18 miles southeast of Kirkuk to the main pipeline that originates in the northeastern Iraqi city.

    The official said the saboteurs struck at 10:30 a.m., setting the line afire at a valve. Huge flames and clouds of smoke rose into the air. Four firefighting teams had the fire under control by nightfall and hoped to have it completely extinguished Tuesday morning. About 300 meters (yards) of the line were damaged.

    Income from oil exports were crucial to the American plans for rebuilding Iraqi infrastructure.

    In Najaf, 110 miles south of Baghdad, members of the Badr Brigade burned the house of a former Baath member, residents said. There were no casualties, but a man close to the brigade, ordered disbanded by the United States shortly after Iraq was occupied by U.S. forces, said the militia would continue to pursue former Baath Party members. The party was the bulwark of support for ousted dictator Saddam.

    The Badr Brigade is the armed wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. The group's leader, a highly respected ayatollah, was assassinated late last month in a car bombing that also killed between 85 and 125 other people in Najaf, Iraq's holiest Shiite Muslim city.

    Meanwhile, a deputy of a radical Shiite Muslim cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr, said his group would not heed a Friday ultimatum set by U.S.-led coalition forces to hand over weapons. Members of the al-Sadr group had also been seen patrolling in Najaf after the assassination of Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim who was the leader of the Supreme Council.

    The two groups are at odds over the direction Iraq will take and on the U.S.-led occupation. The Supreme Council had urged patience with the Americans. Al-Sadr wants them out now.