April 11, 2007 — -- The Pentagon will extend the tours of duty for every active-duty soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As ABC News first reported Tuesday, this plan was in consideration, but will be announced today by the secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
Forget small extensions and trickles of National Guard troops. Under the plan, deployments for active-duty soldiers will be extended from the current 12 months to 15 months. This will apply to all active-duty soldiers, but not to the National Guard and Reserve.
"These soldiers have paid the price for this policy for four years. Now they are being given an additional burden to bear, and it will be a cause of concern for the soldiers and even more so for the families," said retired Gen. William Nash.
The stress on the Army has been compounded by the surge of additional forces President Bush announced in January, a surge Iraq commander David Petraeus wants to extend.
Senior officials tell ABC News there is now consensus at the Pentagon and the White House that Petraeus is right. The surge needs to be extended, until at least the end of the year.
Defense officials say extending the surge is simply impossible to do without extending the tours of those troops already there, or dramatically cutting the time soldiers spend back home.
The Army is proposing an across-the-board extension in part because it is considered to be fairer than imposing piecemeal extensions on individual units. It will also erase uncertainty: Soldiers will know ahead of time how long they'll be in Iraq.
"A clear policy that applies to all is greatly appreciated by soldiers," Nash said. "It is the unknown that is more of a problem."
This plan will be unwelcome news to soldiers who have already had two and sometimes three deployments in Iraq, but officials say there is something of a silver lining: Under the plan, soldiers will be guaranteed at least 12 months at home between deployments.
The plan will not affect the 25,000 Marines now serving in Iraq, although there has been discussion at the Pentagon of extending Marine deployments as well. The Marines currently serve seven-month tours in Iraq.