ABC News’ Z. Byron Wolf Reports: Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey told reporters today his branch of the military is "out of balance" and said that the six years of constant conflict since 9/11 has "stretched and stressed our all volunteer force."
Speaking at the National Press Club, Casey said he still thinks success in Iraq is "eminently attainable," though he admitted there are limits beyond which the current Army could not go. Before he became Army Chief of Staff, Casey was replaced as the commander of US forces in Iraq after the November 2006 election to make way for Gen. David Petraeus and the surge strategy.
Casey’s deputy, Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard Cody, said at Ft. Hood that troops should be prepared to continue with the current, extended 15 month troop deployments associated with the surge of US troops in Iraq through next June. Casey said he "would not be able to recommend" extending the longer tours beyond next Spring.
Casey pointed to plans to grow the Army by nearly 50,000 troops in the coming years and said he is generally satisfied with the commitment on Capitol Hill to give appropriate funding to the Army.
When asked if the military has considered a move to reinstate the draft, Casey said "the demand for forces exceeds the supply and if the demand doesn’t go down" the Army will need a mechanism to provide more forces. Case said the draft is "absolutely not under consideration" at the moment.
While he warned against continuing the surge for too long, Casey said the troops currently having their tours extended are capable for the moment of bearing that burden. "Ninety days in Iraq goes like that," he said, snapping his fingers.
Casey remarked that in addition to taking a toll on soldiers, the surge is leaving its mark on their families too. Many soldiers currently in Iraq will miss two Christmases with their families.
"There is no question the repeated deployments are having a debilitating effect on the families and children," but he pledged to improve the support infrastructure the military has in place.
Casey also said in his speech that he thinks the coming decades will be marked by "persistent conflict" and confrontation with both "state and non-state" actors."