Tours Extended in Iraq

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Two Army brigades and a Marine expeditionary unit have had their tours in Iraq extended to provide security for the upcoming elections there. The major units extended are the Army's 2nd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (Light), the 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division (its second extension) and the Marine Corps' 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. The 66th Transportation Company from Kleber Kasern, Germany, has also been extended. In addition, two battalions from the 82nd Airborne Division will deploy to Iraq for 120 days to cover the Iraqi election period. The decision was announced on December 1, after Gen. George casey, the commander of Multi-National Forces-Iraq, requested the extension from secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The extensions affect roughly 10,400 soldiers and will bring the total number of servicemembers in Iraq to 150,000, the highest troop level since May 2003.

Extended soldiers will receive incentive and hardship pay amounting to $1,000 for any month or half month served beyond their one-year rotation date.

The city of Fallu] ah was declared secure on November 18, but it took a few more days of sweeps through the city to guarantee its safety. The battle for the city began on November 8 when the 1st Marine Division and units from the 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized) and 1st Cavalry Division began moving through the city along with their Iraqi allies. Fifty-one U.S. servicemen were killed in the fighting and 425 were wounded. Coalition estimates put the insurgent casualties at 1,200 killed in action with approximately 1,000 taken prisoner. When the combat ended, Americans and Iraqi troops handed out food and water to the city's citizens. Most of the city's inhabitants had left before the fighting started.

Forty-four U.S. Army soldiers were killed in the month of November. Most were killed by small arms fire, mortar attacks, rocket-propelled grenades and improvised explosive devices.

"Lightning Freedom" in Afghanistan. U.S. and Afghan forces launched Operation Lightning Freedom to preempt expected attacks in the spring by the Taliban, who intend to disrupt Afghan parliamentary elections in April. Timed to begin within days of the December 7 inauguration of Hamid Karzai, the operation targeted the enemy's winter sanctuaries along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, on November 24, three U.N. workers who had been taken hostage in Kabul were released during a rescue operation, as a result of the efforts by the new Afghani government. The hostages had been held for 27 days. One of the kidnappers was killed and four were wounded in the rescue.

Four U.S. Army soldiers were killed in the month of November in Afghanistan. On November 24, CpI. Dale E. Fracker Jr., 23, and CpI. Jacob R. Fleischer, 25, both of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division (Light), were killed in Deh Rawod when an. improvised explosive device detonated near their unit. On November 21, Sgt. Michael O'Neill, 22, of the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, died from injuries sustained at Bagram Air Field during preparations for a combat mission. On November 1, Spc. James C. Kearney III, 22, of the Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry, died from injuries sustained in Sharan, when his convoy was attacked by enemy forces using rocket propelled grenades.

U.S. Troops Leave Bosnia. In a November 24 ceremony, the last of the U.S. peacekeepers in Tuzla, Bosnia, cased their colors and departed the country, marking the historic transfer of the operation from NATO to the newly formed European Union Force (EUFOR). NATO will maintain a small headquarters in Sarajevo to manage defense reform and counterterrorism, but the 7,000 soldiers of EUFOR will handle the larger peacekeeping mission.

More than 100,000 U.S. personnel have served in Operation Joint Endeavor since the end of December 1995. More than 60,000 NATO troops poured into Bosnia following the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords that year. …