WASHINGTON, AP – The Pentagon has ordered 1,500 paratroopers to Iraq to provide security in advance of two upcoming national votes, the military announced Wednesday.
Two infantry battalions from the 82nd Airborne Division will deploy to Iraq before the scheduled Oct. 15 referendum on the proposed constitution, and remain through the December national elections, the Pentagon said in a statement.
They are expected to depart the United States in mid-September and will remain in Iraq for 120 days, officials said.
The battalions will be the 2nd Battalion of the 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, the "White Falcons," and the 3rd Battalion of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, the "Blue Devils," according to a draft of an 82nd Airborne press release provided to the AP.
Both units have already been to Iraq. They will join the 138,000 U.S. troops already in the country.
The military anticipates an increase in violence in Iraq in advance of the elections, with insurgents opposed to the U.S.-backed government trying to disrupt the process.
The Pentagon has temporarily increased the size of the force in Iraq twice before political milestones — the June 2004 transfer of sovereignty and the January elections. Lt. Col. Barry Venable, a Pentagon spokesman, said those deployments helped limit the effectiveness of the insurgent campaign.
"This deployment is in support of continued progress," he said. "We are reinforcing success."
The troops are being sent at the request of Gen. George Casey, commander of the multinational forces in Iraq. His request was approved Tuesday by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the Pentagon said.
The Pentagon has already sent a third battalion from the 82nd Airborne to Afghanistan to bolster security for September elections there.
A fourth battalion from the 82nd is deploying to Iraq to assist with detention operations, the military recently announced.
The 82nd Airborne Division is based at Fort Bragg, N.C. The unit does not have many heavy vehicles and can be sent quickly to conflicts anywhere in the world.