BAGHDAD — The rotation of U.S. troops in and out of
Iraq has reached the halfway mark.
"We're about at the 50 percent point," Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy
director for coalition operations, said Tuesday.
That rotation — involving about 250,000 U.S. troops — has generally gone
smoothly, he said.
"I think it's a great credit not only to the logisticians who planned it, but
the leaders who led it," Kimmitt said.
On a time line, the rotation is actually more than halfway completed, Kimmitt
said. Some new troops started taking over their responsibilities as early as
November. By May, all the troops serving in the first rotation should be out of
the country, replaced by those who will serve another year or so in country.
Some of the outgoing units, including several based in Europe, saw their
deployments extended by a few weeks when commanders saw the rotation needed a
few adjustments. But Kimmitt said such moves should be over.
"I am not aware of any talk regarding [further] extensions at this point," he
He said the theater currently has more U.S. troops than it has seen since the
reduction after President Bush declared an end to major hostilities on May 1,
2003. But as servicemembers continue to stream out of airports and into staging
areas in Kuwait, the numbers in Iraq will steadily fall.
"Today, we're just about at the top of the peak," Kimmitt said.
Roughly three of the six division-sized elements have already changed hands,
with new troops in the north, south-central and southern sectors.
Brig. Gen. Carter Ham, who commands Task Force Olympia in the north of Iraq,
said there are only a few small elements still swapping out in his sector.
He said Tuesday that the Army has been able to refine its techniques for
showing new troops the ropes during operations in places such as Kosovo and
Bosnia and Herzegovina.
"We've learned over time that this process works well," Ham said, referring
to a method commonly called left-seat, right-seat — in which troops entering
the area sit next to experienced troops on patrol to get familiar with their
new duties. "It gets better every time."
That said, Ham admitted that Iraq presents unique challenges during such a
"While the process is the same, every individual situation is very different
and we realize that."
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