|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
'Stop loss' bars US soldiers from leaving
June 03, 2004 16:23 IST
Thousands of US soldiers who were scheduled to leave the military will be ordered to stay on if their units are being sent to Iraq or Afghanistan, say newspaper reports.
The move imposes what the Army calls "stop-loss orders" on all units being deployed on missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Such orders prevent active-duty soldiers and reservists from retiring or leaving their units from 90 days before they deploy until 90 days after they return - even if their volunteer commitments to the military end before then, said the Los Angeles Times.
But while Army officials acknowledged that the program was "a finger in the dike," as one senior officer said Wednesday, they said they had no choice but to gamble that they could keep soldiers in service now without triggering a backlash that would lead to an exodus later, the Times said.
"I don't think there's a question that here in the near term that the United States Army, active and reserved, is stretched," said Lt. Gen. Franklin L. Hagenbeck, the Army's personnel chief.
Hagenbeck, though, denied that the orders were a symptom of desperation. The decision was taken not because the Army was desperate for manpower, but because units deployed to combat zones need to keep their experienced teams together, he said.
"If we didn't have stop loss, we'd send units to Iraq or Afghanistan, and over that period of six to 12 months while they were in theater, they'd continuously be having people rotating in and out of there, breaking up the teams and squads," he said. "We want to deploy as a team. This is a stopgap measure during the next few years."
But the announcement comes at a time when the military is stretching to find enough troops to cover multiple large missions, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan.
All four services imposed stop-loss orders after 9/11, but while the Air Force, Navy and Marines limited it to specific occupations and subsequently revoked the order, the army imposed stop losses on entire units called up tours of Afghanistan and Iraq.