August 26, 2003

How Many More Troops in

How Many More Troops in Iraq? What Kind? What Would They Accomplish?

I recently blogged about the likely need for more troops in Iraq. Easy to say some readers have written in. How many more? What kind? And what will an infusion of troops really accomplish on the ground?

On the "how many more" front take a look at this Q&A that has outside experts looking for a total committment of troops from the 300,000-500,000 range (ie. up to 350,000 more) to smaller troop deployment recommendations of about 2-4 combat brigades (10,000-25,000 troops).

Keep in mind that, just yesterday, Rummy stated commanders on the ground like Gen. John Abizaid tell him they have all the troops on the ground they need--and haven't requested more to date.

Fair enough. But other informed sources like John McCain or this three-star retired general both think we need more guys and gals on the ground.

Despite Rummy's protestations, I think that Dubya, and likely pretty soon, is going to approve a greater troop deployment in Iraq. The number chosen will obviously be important and ought to be debated vigorously in the Administration, ie. should the Administration keep the force more on the nimble side and merely add a couple brigades, put in another 200,000 boots on the ground who can really saturate the country so, for one, the U.S. looks more overpowering to insurgents, or something in the middle?

But likely even more critical is what kind of troops to send. Sure we likely need traditional combat troops to more effectively quash the insurgents. We also need need military police types to help create a more secure environment to, for instance, better protect international organizations post-U.N. bombing so key humanitarian groups don't leave or scale back operations in Iraq.

On this subject (what kind of troops), go check out if you haven't already Phil Carter's excellent post (via David Adesnik).

Carter discusses sending constabulatory forces to the theatre (on a related topic see this old B.D. post that looks into the impact of peackeeping duties on traditional troop's morale). Carter writes:

"So why not just build more MP, Civil Affairs and SF units? Because the true value in these units is not their hardware or their organizational setup -- it's their people. What makes an MP unit so special is its experience in dealing with law enforcement and peacekeeping situations -- experience which is earned through decades of collective work on those missions. You can't build an MP sergeant overnight, just as you couldn't create a civilian police sergeant overnight. It takes years to build the kind of "street smarts" and professional maturity that is necessary for troops in Iraq. So even if you reclassify infantrymen and scouts and tankers as MPs, they will take time to develop the necessary experience levels. There are alternatives, such as cross-assigning personnel to put a critical mass of old MPs in new units. But it still takes time."

Carter is absolutely right on this score. Training a few effective gendarmarie forces that would "add value" in Iraq could take a good while. Which led me to think, why don't we use some of our old Bosnia and Kosovo peacekeepers? They have worked in predominately Muslim (if European) areas. They have already done ( the often thankless, routine, and tedious) peacekeeping. The government could perhaps compensate such forces some form added salary if they volunteered or came out of retirement for military police type duties in Iraq.

What about other kinds of troops we might send in in greater number? If you read the Bernard Trainor interview (link above re: 3 star general), you will note he wasn't hugely keen on additional marine deployments but did see some upside.

"Q: The Marines have been given good marks in certain parts of Iraq for doing well in civil affairs. Do you think the Marines should take on more of these responsibilities? It's not their usual job, is it?

A: I can't say it is their usual job. But the Marines are the closest thing the United States has ever had to colonial infantry, such as the British and French had in their imperial days. And they are used to operating in the third world and taking on odd jobs for which there is no manual. As a matter of fact, the Marines did write a manual in the 1930s based on their experiences in places like Santo Domingo, Haiti, and Nicaragua. It's called the "Small Wars Manual," and is still very applicable today. It tells you what to do when you are put in what are today called "peace enforcement operations." For the Marines, this is a cultural sort of thing. They are used to operating in weird places, under weird circumstances, and they've just adjusted to it. So, I think they have done very well, as have the British in the southern part of Iraq." [Note: Rest of quote in link]

So here's another idea. What about looking at, initially, all our marines who have prior Middle East experience, including marines who have guarded our embassies, day in and day out, for years. These are modest proposals (and involve small numbers of Marines)--but every slightly culturally atuned potential MP or Marine with gendarmarie type experience that we can get on the ground in Iraq to perform constabulatory duties would be, in aggregate, a boon to the difficult task we are facing in Iraq.

Finally, what can more people on the ground accomplish? First, it's important to note that I think we need to look at a mixture of added forces. More standard Army forces to, at least in the Sunni Triangle, saturate the area more to signal to the locals that we are in for the long haul and that the past four months of losing a GI roughly every other day hasn't deterred America's determination in the least.

Related to this, and per Phil Carter, look at sending in more special forces to out-guerrilla the guerrillas. And help spearhead efforts to find foreign infiltrators, the Ace of Spades, and so on.

But finally, and likely most important, put together joint military police brigade made up of troops that had served in Bosnia and Kosovo and Marines--particularly those with Middle East experience. As Gen. Trainor said, Marines are the closest thing we have in the U.S. Army resembling a "colonial infantry." And, of course, start training constabulatory forces going forward--we might be in Iraq for many years and other hot spots requiring such services will doubtless erupt too.

What might be accomplish then? More standard army forces will help stem the insurgency and show our will to get the job done to the Iraqi people. Some MPs and Marine combo might best be deployed, at least initially, in large cities where they can "show the flag" in a less intimidating fashion than a standard grunt, help protect key targets (embassies, NGO HQ's), help restore added order and protect services (electricity, water etc). and help facilitate interaction with the local populace through greater cultural sensitivity. Finally, more special forces guys to hunt down Saudi jihadi infiltrators and hard-core Ba'athist remnants.

Note: Check out Patrick Belton's interesting link-filled post on this whole troop deployment issue as well.

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