June 16, 2005

Quote(s) of the Day

"We have a finite number of troops," said Maj. Chris Kennedy, executive officer of the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment, which arrived in Tal Afar several weeks ago. "But if you pull out of an area and don't leave security forces in it, all you're going to do is leave the door open for them to come back. This is what our lack of combat power has done to us throughout the country. In the past, the problem has been we haven't been able to leave sufficient forces in towns where we've cleared the insurgents out."

And:

"Resources are everything in combat, and when you don't have enough manpower to move around, you have to pick the places," said Maj. John Wilwerding, executive officer of Sabre Squadron, a 1,000-strong unit that now oversees Tal Afar."

This from a Tal Afar Richard Oppel dispatch.

Posted by Gregory at June 16, 2005 05:07 AM | TrackBack (21)
Comments

Greg, here's something I found interesting about this. From the NYT article you linked to:

"If you take all the complexities of Iraq and compressed it into one city, it is Tal Afar," said the regiment's commander, Col. H. R. McMaster.

Now, take a look at where this photo (to which I linked in my comparison between Vietnam and Iraq) was taken:

http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2005/01/19/international/19iraq.ready.html

An offensive war fought against a decentralized low-tech insurgency, poor pre-war planning, etc---and we lose the moral high ground, one outrage and one tragedy at a time.

History's rhyme?

Posted by: The Cunning Realist at June 16, 2005 01:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I have always been skeptical that “more U.S. troops” in Iraq would improve things much more quickly than is already happening.

Obviously, America is a superpower and can, if necessary, spend the billions of dollars and the 2+ years required to raise, train, and equip several more combat brigades.

But remember that when the “superpower” is standing on a street corner in downtown Baghdad, that superpower is probably a 20-year-old kid from the Midwest who doesn’t speak Arabic, doesn’t understand the people around him, and can’t really tell the difference between an Iraqi and a Saudi -- all of which any 10-year-old Iraqi child could do instantly.

So now we want to put two of those 20-year-olds on that street corner and expect to get better results (instead of just more American targets)? I don’t think so. Maybe we’ll get slightly better results, but not close to commensurate with the costs.

The conclusion is obvious: Yes, we need more troops -- Iraqi troops! Because then, besides the other advantages, when all the troops “go home”, the Iraqi troops will still be in Iraq, doing what they need to do. And the American troops can be in “backup mode”, ready to come in from wherever they are to support the Iraqis, if that is needed.

This logic is not that difficult; and in fact it is what Rumsfeld has been trying to do from the start. (If -- with hindsight -- you want to argue that he should have done it better, well... umm... Ok.)

Posted by: Tom Paine at June 16, 2005 01:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I agree with Tom. Hindsight is 20/20 and while more troops would be great, where are they to come from? As Rummy said to much derision, you fight with the army you have. Besides, I think Rumsfeld is getting a bad rap as I have heard that he wasn't interested in the imperial viceroy type occupation that we got into under Paul Bremmer and wanted to run the war with even less troops; Afganistan writ large. (altough that may be ass-covering by the pentagon) Basically let the Kurds sweep down from the north like the 'Northern Alliance' under our airpower while establishing a reservation in the Shiite areas to equip and train militia there and let them sweep north. That would have had the Iraqis liberating themselves.

Tob

Posted by: toby928 at June 16, 2005 04:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm not sure what our position relative to the moral high ground has to do with anything in the NYT piece. Its message seems quite straightforward -- in this particular area, there are not enough American and not yet enough trained Iraqi forces available to secure the places we need secured. In particular, the rat lines bringing in gunmen and money from Syria can only be disrupted periodically, not severed.

Posted by: Zathras at June 16, 2005 07:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Tom, I think the point is that having one trained, equipped 20 year old kid on every corner is better than zero, not having 2 instead of 1.

Our troops have to leave an area to deal with hotspots. If we had more troops, perhaps we could keep a force in the regions along the Syrian borders rather than having to constantly move from one place to another.

Posted by: just me at June 16, 2005 07:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Powell Doctorine certainly applies to enemy forces in the field. Occupying a country is a slightly different matter, perhaps. Whether Iraq is Afghanistan writ-large or some kind of hybrid plan; it stresses operations, not leaving behind garrisons that need to be supplied and protected.

It is also true that more troops would mean the abiltiy to conduct simultaneous operations, but this would require effective and up-to-date intelligence, of course.

I'm afraid we are going to be in for this whack-a-mole strategy for some time to come. The stragegic headache for us now is to find a way to get more Sunnis into the Iraqi armed forces, because these are the guys you want garrisoning those towns; not the Americans. Sending volunteers from Sadr City may not be the best way to pacify the outlying areas of the Sunni Triangle.

Posted by: Chuck Betz at June 16, 2005 08:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The article is quite accurate.

Despite ~135,000 U.S. personnel being in Iraq, only 40,000 of them are infantry/combat arms actually operating outside the wire in a pro-active manner.

The majority of military in Iraq are personnel other than grunts, or POTGs.

Because of this, units bounce from area to area, never staying in one place too long. The insurgents have figured this out and will ride out a 'cordon & sweep' of a city.

Unless the unit takes its time, sets up permanent residence and has plenty of Iraqi interpreters or Iraqi military integrated into the unit, finding the insurgents is a random occurrence.

That is not to say that Iraqis don't try and point out who the bad guys are on occasion. A family pointed the platoon I was with straight to a terrorist safe house once.

But, without an interpreter or Iraqi soldiers, U.S. Forces are less effective.

Posted by: JD at June 17, 2005 05:22 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This is actually my first blog comment ever so bear with me.

The whole number of troops debate is academic-period. In 1991 the US Army had 19 divisions and the USMC had a little more than 3 divisions. In 2003 the Army was down to 10 divisions and the USMC about 2.5. In the decade between the two Iraq conflicts we essentially cut our ground combat power in half.

Troops are to a general what cash is to a CEO. You can't use what you do not have. Accordingly we are outsourcing critical functions with contractors and using the Guard and Reserves. (You might say we are debt financing this project)

Anyone who says that we should have 2X or 3X the number troops should look at the manpower availability before they even look at whether it is a good operational idea. Once again- you can not spend what you do not have.

The only way forward from day one was/is the turning over of security to the Iraqis. To do this requires a functioning Iraqi political process to both organize the Iraqi army and relieve the pull of insurgancy. So we are stuck with 30-80KIA a month while the Iraqis chug along with their political process and train and army.

The strategic underpinnings are not in doubt as long as the political process continues.

Posted by: Ed at June 17, 2005 06:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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