Sat, Apr 07, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Pentagon to call up volunteers

SUICIDE BOMBERS The report of the National Guard plan came as a chlorine truck exploded at a checkpoint in Ramadi, killing at least 20 people and releasing chlorine gas

AGENCIES , WASHINGTON AND BAGHDAD

The Pentagon will call up 12,000 National Guard soldiers for service in Iraq to fill gaps in the overworked army, a news report said on Thursday.

The National Guard is a volunteer militia but they will receive an involuntary call-up to report for duty in Iraq, NBC News said.

The Pentagon said it had no immediate comment on the report.

Guard units are based in each US state. Four states will provide the troops from four brigades, the TV network said, citing unnamed Defense Department sources.

The call-up follows closely US President George W. Bush's controversial "surge" of 21,000 troops, meant to quell the sectarian violence as well as al-Qaeda fighters determined to sow chaos.

However, US troops are being rotated in and out of Iraq, sometimes without the usual training, sometimes without the customary 12 months' rest at US bases.

Pentagon sources told NBC that the orders for the deployment awaited Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' approval.

Democrats, who control both houses of Congress, have been trying to hem in Bush, by conditioning continued war funding on setting a timeline for drawing down troop levels in Iraq.

The Pentagon said on Thursday that some 145,000 US troops are serving in Iraq.

Some 3,250 US troops have also died in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion, according to a count based on Pentagon figures.

A US Defense Department spokesman said on Monday that some 30,000 additional US troops sent as reinforcements to Iraq will remain in the war-torn country until at least the end of August.

The Pentagon would deploy 7,000 troops to replace units on their way out of Iraq, a move that would allow the reinforcements to remain in the country until at least late August, spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

Meanwhile, a truck bomb exploded in the volatile Iraqi city of Ramadi yesterday, killing at least 20 people and releasing chlorine gas into the air, police and security sources said.

Police Colonel Tareq Dulaimi from Ramadi said the bomb, which targeted a police patrol, wounded as many as 30 people. He said people were also choking from the gas.

There has been a spate of chlorine truck bomb attacks in recent months, mainly in western Anbar Province. US commanders and Iraqi police have blamed al-Qaeda militants for several of the chlorine attacks.

Anbar Province has been a stronghold of the Sunni insurgency but many tribes in the region recently switched allegiance, with large numbers of military-age men joining the police force and Iraqi army in a bid to expel al-Qaeda fighters from Iraq.

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