US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan lack proper equipment, are overstretched and face serious health problems upon their return home, according to a poll released by an advocacy group.
The poll by VoteVets.org, a political action committee made up of veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, showed that nearly half (42 percent) of all veterans who served in either country felt that their equipment did not meet military standards.
Former US presidential candidate retired Gen. Wesley Clark listens to a press conference by veterans advocacy group VoteVets.org before addressing the media in Washington. US troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan lack proper equipment, are overstretched and face serious health problems upon their return home, according to a poll released by the group.(AFP/Nicholas Kamm)
It also said that 35 percent of veterans reported that their trucks had no armor protection, while 10 percent said the trucks were "up-armored" with scrap metal.
"The results of this poll should be a wake-up call to every American," said Jon Soltz, an Iraq war veteran and chairman of VoteVets, a non-partisan organization. "We are shortchanging our troops, in combat and at home."
Soltz acknowledged that the army's Humvees have been upgraded since 2005 but stressed that more needed to be done as insurgents in Iraq were using new sophisticated devices able to penetrate armor.
"We are in a real-time cat and mouse game with the enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan," retired General Wesley Clark, who was supreme commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization under President Bill Clinton, told reporters at a news conference. "They are not standing still, and if we think that putting a couple of inches of armor on a Humvee will protect us, ... that is not necessarily so."
He added that there was no reason why the wealthiest country in the world could not properly fund its armed forces.
"Right now it's nip and tuck, it's not done by a long shot," he said.
The poll was released amid a spike in the number of US troop casualties in Iraq, where 10 soldiers have been killed since Monday. Their death brings the number of killed since the March 2003 invasion to 2,725, according to an AFP count based on Pentagon figures.
The survey results also come ahead of key legislative elections in November in which the Republican Party is trying to keep its majority in both houses of Congress.
Apart from inadequate equipment, the poll by VoteVets showed that soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan also often had their service extended past the original time frame and some encountered emotional and physical health problems, as well as economic hardships, as a result of their service.
"Overall, 63 percent of all Iraq and Afghanistan veterans believe the Army and Marine Corps are overextended at this time," the poll report said.
It added that 79 percent of all veterans agree that National Guard and Reserve veterans deserve the same type of health coverage as active-duty personnel.
Soltz and Clark said one reason the poll was being released now was so that Americans could demand answers from their leaders at the upcoming polls.
"The American people need to look beyond the American flag lapel pins and start asking who is really putting the priorities on keeping the country safe," Clark said.
The poll was conducted by Lake Research Partners between September 6 and 19 and involved 453 respondents of various political affiliations. It had a 4.6-percentage-point margin of error.
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