Washington (AP) – Nearly 17,000 more reserve and National Guard forces were called to duty in the last week as the Pentagon continued its Persian Gulf buildup for possible war in Iraq.
Under an order signed by President Bush three days after the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, up to 1 million Guard and reserve troops can be called to serve for up to two years. Officials have said it is unlikely that number would be needed.
In its weekly report on mobilizations, the Defense Department said Wednesday that 16,735 were called in the preceding seven days, bringing the number now serving to more than 168,000.
Only a third of that number were on duty a month ago, before officials began the rapid buildup in the Persian Gulf.
Though the Pentagon doesn’t specify in the weekly reports where units have been sent, a substantial portion are deployed for the possible war to disarm and overthrow Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Some also are serving in jobs aimed at strengthening homeland defense after the September 2001 terrorist attacks.
“For the National Guard and reserve, it is not a question of whether or not there will be a war in Iraq, but rather a commitment to be ready for any mission they may be called upon to do,” said Lt. Col. Dan Stoneking, a Pentagon spokesman.
Some 200,000 forces are now in place in the gulf, officials said.
Since Bush signed what is called a “partial mobilization” order in [September] 2001, 225,000 have been activated, some finishing their duty and going back to civilian life [or Reserve status].