General Petraeus has asked the Pentagon for additional troops in Iraq, the Boston Globe has learned.
The US commander in Iraq has appealed for a combat aviation unit that would involve "between 2,500 and 3,000 more soldiers and dozens of transport helicopters and powerful gunships," according to the Globe's Pentagon sources.
The Globe story scoops any formal announcement of the request.
A "senior Pentagon official closely involved in the war planning" told the Globe, "This is the next shoe to drop . . . But you cannot put five combat brigades in there and not have more aviation guys, military police, and intelligence units."
This next lot of additional troops are expected to be in Iraq May. The aviation brigade will support combat troops in Baghdad and Anbar Province, the Globe reports.
This latest troop request is distinct from the 21,500 original "surge" troops, and from the additional 4,600 support troops (among whom number 2,200 military police and other personnel) requested last week.
After all units have deployed to Iraq, the number of additional US forces shipped to the theater in the first half of 2007 will approach 30,000, on top of the estimated 130,000 troops already in Iraq.
The Globe writes that the new aviation brigade will likely come from the Army's Third Infantry Division at Fort Stewart in Georgia, according to a Pentagon source cited in the Globe. The unit was slated to return to Iraq before the Bush escalation plan, but this deployment would acclerate their return.
With the new deployment, the unit will bring the total number of aviation brigades in Iraq to four. If that level is to be maintained, a Pentagon official said, the military will have to identify replacement units in a few months.