Army units to go to Iraq for changing mission

/ Source: The Associated Press

The U.S. Defense Department has created, and ordered to Iraq, four custom-made Army brigades designed to focus more on advising Iraqis and less on fighting as America prepares for its 2011 exit.

The new units are among 30,000 troops being sent to Iraq, starting later this year, the department announced Tuesday. Another 7,500 are going to Afghanistan.

They all are replacements for forces finishing their tours of duty and rotating home from the military missions, and don't amount to a troop buildup in either country, officials said.

The 30,000 for Iraq include three brigade combat teams, three headquarters units, a security brigade to be stationed in nearby Kuwait and four of the newly created so-called Advisory and Assistance Brigades, or AABs.

The advisory brigades include combat forces but are not technically combat units and will be allowed to stay in Iraqi cities when needed. That's despite last month's pullout of combat forces from the cities, Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

The new units are built around a combat brigade team but instead will focus on stability operations. They also are tailored to include engineers, military police, civil affairs officers and people to help with transportation needed for the State Department's reconstruction teams, Whitman told Pentagon reporters.

"The mission of these units will be to train and mentor Iraqi security forces, conduct coordinated counterterrorism missions and protect ongoing civilian and military efforts within Iraq," he said.

Under a U.S.-Iraqi security pact that took effect earlier this year, Iraqi forces assumed responsibility for securing cities after the withdrawal of U.S. combat from towns and cities on June 30.

Some 130,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, but have a lower profile. All American forces are to withdraw from the country by Dec. 31, 2011 and President Barack Obama also has said no more than 50,000 combat troops will remain by the end of August 2010.

The new troops will be sent to Iraq and Afghanistan beginning later in the year, with some arriving early next year.