Archive for Friday, July 18, 2003

Fort Riley commander foresees soldiers in Iraq ‘for quite a while’

July 18, 2003


— Fewer than 500 of the approximately 4,500 Fort Riley soldiers deployed for duty in the Iraq war have returned to the post, and its commanding general says he doesn't expect all of them back very soon.

"It is still a tough situation in Iraq," Brig. Gen. Dennis E. Hardy said Wednesday at his first news conference since becoming commander of the post and the 24th Infantry (Mechanized) in May. "We're assuming that we will be deployed for quite a while. Quite a while to me means at least a year."

Last week, Gen. Tommy Franks, the war's former commander, told members of Congress that American soldiers may need to remain in Iraq for four years. His comments came amid growing concerns on the homefront about the security of the 148,000 American troops serving in Iraq.

Members of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division had been told they would be going home by Sept. 1, only to hear this past weekend that their return had been put on hold. The new commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, Gen. John Abizaid, said Wednesday in Washington that he was confident other Army troops, Marines or international forces could replace them.

Some of the American troops coming into Iraq could be there for a year, Abizaid said.

Yearlong deployments, a norm during the Vietnam War, have been rare in recent years. The 1st Armored Division served in Bosnia for a year during the 1990s, Abizaid said.

Hardy praised the work of the Fort Riley troops sent to Iraq. He said he would like the soldiers to be reunited with their families as soon as possible, but that that can't happen until war leaders determine the level of troop strength required overseas.

On another matter, Hardy acknowledged that even though the government was spending tens of millions of dollars on the infrastructure at Fort Riley, there were no guarantees for the future of the 150-year-old post.

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