Gen. George W. Casey, the U.S. army's chief of staff, said Wednesday that the military would be able to implement President Obama's surge in Afghanistan without either extending the current length of tours in Iraq or Afghanistan or giving soldiers less time at home with their families between deployments.
He also said that the president's decision to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan for at least the next 18 months would not require the army to reinstitute an unpopular program known as "stop loss," which prevented soldiers from leaving the army as previously scheduled.
The general provided these assurances at a press briefing today at the U.S. Army's Intelligence Center and School at Fort Huachuca in Arizona and in a message to senior army officers, a copy of which was shared with Fox News.
In his message, Gen. Casey asked officers to do "everything we can to prepare the forces and the theater to receive these forces as quickly as we can so that we maximize the impact they can make on the ground." He also asked his officers to "get out and talk to your Soldiers, Civilians and Families" to reassure them that the impact of the surge would "not be as significant as they may fear."
"Our Army has never failed to answer the Nation's call," he wrote. "As we have done over the last eight years, we will rise to this challenge" – specifically to "disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaeda and prevent their return to either Afghanistan or Pakistan, while reversing the momentum of the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan and successfully complete our mission in Iraq."
"The American people expect nothing less," the message concludes.
Gen. Casey's message which he repeated today at Fort Huachuca seem aimed at assuaging concerns of legislators and defense experts that a surge in Afghanistan after eight years of war there and the earlier surge of forces in Iraq would place an unsustainable burden on the military.
To ease family and financial pressures on officers and enlisted soldiers and to maximize readiness, the army was aiming to ensure that by 2011 all active-duty units would be able to spend at least two years ago at home for every one year deployed, and that reservists would have four years back home for every year of deployment. While the army is not likely to reach this goal, said Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a defense spokesman, it estimates that 70 percent of active-duty units and 80 percent of reserve units will achieve that ratio, thanks to the enlarged army and the drawing down of forces from Iraq.
"We won't backslide and we'll continue to make progress," Lt. Col. Garver said.
The unpopular "stop loss" program was suspended this past summer and is to be completely phased out for active duty units, reservists and the National Guard by this January.
Congress has authorized several expansions of the army, which included about 485,000 soldiers before the war in Iraq began. This summer, Congress authorized another addition of some 22,000 soldiers, a temporary increase for 3 years, that will bring the army to a total of some 569,000.
Judith Miller is an award-winning writer and author. She is a Fox News contributor.