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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 January, 2004, 17:38 GMT
US army battles to keep soldiers
US troops in Baghdad
Critics say the US does not have enough troops
The US army is introducing a series of measures to prevent soldiers serving in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan from leaving the service.

Those who were planning to retire or leave in the next few months will now have to remain with their unit.

Soldiers whose terms of enlistment have expired will be offered up to $10,000 to serve another three years.

An army spokesman said the moves were designed to maintain cohesion and combat effectiveness.

BBC Pentagon correspondent Nick Childs says it is another sign of the strain the US army is under because of the operation in Iraq.

He adds that it will encourage critics who say the military simply does not have enough troops.


The "stop loss order" to troops currently in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan means they will have to remain in service while their units are deployed - and for up to 90 days after they return to their home bases.

It suggests just how strained the military is in trying to provide for the Iraqi occupation plus all the other US obligations around the world
Ted Carpenter
Defence analyst

Our correspondent says there are already some stop loss orders in place and US army officials are playing down the significance of this planned new extension.

But he adds that it could mean real hardship for some soldiers.

Army spokesman Major Steve Stover said the order would affect about 7,000 soldiers currently in Iraq who were either due to end their service or retire before their unit redeployed.

They are likely to be in leadership positions because of their level of experience.

"The combatant commanders said that if you replace them by taking them out now, it's going to cause turbulence and confusion, because you're taking away key leaders at a key time when a unit is currently in operation," said Major Stover.

Force rotation

Ted Carpenter, a defence analyst with the Cato Institute think tank, said the stop loss decision went against the concept of volunteer military service.

"Clearly, if large numbers of personnel have their terms extended against their will, that violates the principle of volunteerism," he said.

"It also suggests just how strained the military is in trying to provide for the Iraqi occupation plus all the other US obligations around the world."

US military officials say re-enlistment bonuses are a common practice, albeit perhaps not normally involving such large sums.

The BBC's Chris Hogg, in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, reports that US army officers there say that some of their men and women will be tempted by the offer of extra cash to sign up for more years in service.

He says this is in spite of the 20-plus attacks on coalition forces each day in Iraq.

Captain Tyrone Simms of the 1st Squadron, 2nd Armoured Cavalry Regiment, told the BBC: "Morale right now is really high, but the extra money will definitely raise morale."

The new measures come as the army is embarking on a rotation of its forces in Iraq. Among the first combat units to return from Iraq, beginning this month, will be the 101st Airborne Division, based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

What do you think? Do you know anyone in the army likely to be enticed by the incentives? Send us your views using the postform below.

Your comments:

Incentives are necessary to keep the coalition soldiers in a good mood. But the real reward for their full involvement, understanding of the grave requirement of the hour and their contribution to fight to create a better and safer world will be received if only they win and deliver whatever plans charted out by the leaders of the coalition. The world has to be made a better place. I would be glad to serve with the coalition because I know that this just has to be won to rectify all these centuries of confusion and mess that has been created by all the former people who lived in this world.
Albert F Correya, Goa, India

It's not a sign of army weakness - it's strategic planning
Cody Beckman, New London, IA, USA
Of course we want to keep the same troops over there. I would think that even people who don't support the military action in Iraq/Afghanistan would want the troops that are going to be there (because they are going to be there until it's done) to be as accustomed to the culture and climate as possible, so they can be as effective as possible, make as few mistakes as possible, and save as many people as possible. It's not a sign of army weakness - it's strategic planning.
Cody Beckman, New London, IA, USA

My husband just began his 18 month deployment. He was added to another unit to "fill the slots" so they could deploy to the Middle East. He hasn't known these guys more than a month at this point and will be "in country" with them in less then two months. This stop-loss order isn't to keep units together. That is as bogus as the "WMD" reasoning. This is the Pentagons way of dealing with the huge numbers of personnel who are planning on leaving the service because of this war. This thing gets dirtier and dirtier each day. God bless the troops!
Sherry, Northern VA, USA

Many dead soldiers have been returned to our area already. How many more are to come? As a mother who sent her only son to two war zones, I ask why is this happening? There was and isn't proof of a real need to invade Iraq. This latest move is more proof of another Viet Nam taking place! If the troops felt right about fighting there, they would not need to be forced to stay! The UN must get involved in taking care of the people of Iraq! It is wrong to force our troops to handle this political and religious mess without international cooperation!
Pat Carson, Buffalo NY

Certainly, soldiers with experience should serve in hot points and extra money stimulates them. But don't forget idea. May be Soviet Army sustain defeat in Afghanistan because fought for idea but no money. However, USA has many others methods to win its country without direct intervention.
Arthur Belokon, Novorossiysk, Russia

I think retaining experienced soldiers far outweigh the critics' sign of weakness. An experienced soldier can greatly reduce injury or death, especially in such hostile situations. The incentives to stay might be a little low but I hope that the people in the service can see the good they can accomplish (saving fellow soldiers lives) by staying in a few extra years. God Bless and Support our Troops!
Christopher, Ann Arbor, MI - USA

So now the Pentagon has to bribe their own soldiers into staying on in Iraq? There's a reason they don't want to be there - cause there is no reason for them to be there.
Dan Satherley, Hamilton, New Zealand

I believe it is the correct decision. A fighting unit is a team, it functions most effectively when every member of the team understands the duties and responsibilities of every other member of the team, as well as his/her own duties and responsibilities. Changing leaders while deployed would be akin to replacing the line coach in the middle of the Super Bowl. Professional soldiers understand this concept. They are not the ones carping here, uninformed civilians who have no concept of what I describe are the only ones complaining.
Douglas, Lafayette, Louisiana

What is the US government trying to hide? They have not rotated troops through Iraq as would normally be done; now they are preventing those there from returning home. And even when they do return home they have to stay in the barracks for 90 days. Is the US government afraid that the returning troops will "tell it like it is," which will be different to what the government wants us to hear?
Tom Payne, Chambery, France

It is far better to have well trained personal there than new recruits
Beryl Deer, Australia
It is far better to have well trained personal there than new recruits. By all means give them a bonus They are doing a great job and need all the support we can give.
Beryl Deer, Australia

It is too bad that the US armed forces have to resort this type of method to keep our folks in the service, this would take on the appearance of holding them hostage for their own ends, sounds like if some one volunteers to serve for three years and their tour in the armed forces expires, let them go, if they want to extend their time that's up to them, not for the government to say they can't leave. This is wrong.
Alan J. Torr, Moriarty

It is very hard for anyone to stay calm and focused in a stressful war - like situation for too long. The only thing that helps in a situation like this is the belief that you are fighting for a moral and just cause, which is clearly not the case. Where are those WMDs which were used as a pretext of war?
Ahmad, Pakistan

I was in the US Navy I was in the sub force and on two surface ships. I've seen a lot in the time I was in. I believed that our service members deserve a hell of a lot more they what they get. They go through hell serving our country and don't really get much in return. Yes they get paid and all, but the stress they go through takes years to overcome when they get out. Most of these men and women are just kids. They are 18-21 years old and i don't care what they say they are wet behind the ears and put through hell the deserve more.
Timothy b Woods, Warsaw. New York

The US Army is clearly over burdened. This latest decision is a stopgap response that is ill advised because it violates the volunteer principle under which the Army personnel entered the system. It also insults these soldiers, and their colleagues, by offering them a paltry bride. This measure will leave many soldiers determined to get out of the system, at the first opportunity, because they now see that they cannot trust that system. More shades of Viet Nam added to our daily fare.
Alexis Orlov, Virginia, USA

This is a simple but effective way of keeping the experienced people on the ground rather than introduce new people that may make "learning" mistake and thus cost lives/greater sums of money. Yes the critics will see it as a sign of weakness but its just a wise move to keep the strength of experience in the theatre of operations.
Barry, London, UK

Being in the military, I can understand a need to retain troops in time of war in order to protect the interests of the nation. However, we are not and have not been in a REAL war where our interests are at threat. This was a political war to make a few people look good and to save face after 9-11. Based on these supposed threats, we should also invade North Korea given that are OPENLY stating they have WMD.
Dale, San Diego, USA

The leadership training that a soldier receives during a tour of duty is worth much more than $10,000. The incentive should reflect the value of this experience in the civilian world.
Kenneth Wiley, New Orleans, LA, USA

I served 21 years in the U.S. Navy and was deployed to Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm before retiring in August, 2000. While there are and will continue to be some upset service members, most accept this as a known component of their contracts during time of war and will continue to serve fully as the professionals they are.
Keith Connor, Wasilla, Alaska

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