View Full Version : Iraq Force Shift Studied

11-22-2006, 11:08 PM
Some of this has been in the MSM but I thought it was interesting to find the story handled a little more in detail.


Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is thoroughly reviewing the military options in Iraq. The military is being tugged in two different directions: Democrats support a phased redeployment with clearly set timelines, while Republicans like Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and neoconservatives favor sending more troops (USA Today) to secure the country. A leaked report of the Pentagon review reveals the plan entails three options: a short-term increase in U.S. forces, a long-term plan to cut the U.S. presence there with a commitment to training and advising Iraqi forces instead of combat missions, or a swift withdrawal of U.S. soldiers. President Bush, while in Indonesia, reiterated his opposition to the third option. But insiders tell the Washington Post the Pentagon may undertake a hybrid of the first two plans: a short-term buildup of U.S. forces from the current level of about 140,000 followed by a phased redeployment to perhaps 60,000 U.S. troops. One Defense Department official likened the strategy to Michael’s Jackson’s moonwalk, whereby the singer appears to be moving forward while actually sliding backward.

Much more at the link above

Around Midnight
11-23-2006, 07:23 PM
The Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/19/AR2006111901249.html)reports that the Pentagon has outlined three options and “insiders” have applied three slogans to these options: "Go Big," "Go Long" and "Go Home:"

“The Pentagon's closely guarded review of how to improve the situation in Iraq has outlined three basic options: Send in more troops, shrink the force but stay longer, or pull out, according to senior defense officials.

“Insiders have dubbed the options "Go Big," "Go Long" and "Go Home." The group conducting the review is likely to recommend a combination of a small, short-term increase in U.S. troops and a long-term commitment to stepped-up training and advising of Iraqi forces, the officials said.”

The use of diminutive slogans in terms of the Iraq strategy eerily calls to mind General Maxwell Taylor’s analysis of 1967 Vietnam in his book “Swords and Ploughshares” (p. 380). Only he offered up four slogans instead of three:

“I contended that there always had been and still were only four alternatives (in 1967 Vietnam), although each had several variants. The basic four in simplest terms were: 'all out,''pull-out,' 'pull back,' or 'stick-it-out.'"

“'All out' was the solution of the extreme hawks who would increase the military pressure…. (T)he all out partisans also favored a declaration of war and the imposition of wartime controls at home.

“'Pull-out' meant just what it said, to withdraw our forces… just as rapidly as we could safely do so.

“'Pull back' was the de-escalation alternative which usually included… a reduction of offensive ground operations and some abandonment of forward terrain, which could go as far as the withdrawal of our forces into defensive enclaves along the cost.

“'Stick-it-out' was the status quo alternative which amounted to continuing the current strategy…”

Interestingly (in his book) Taylor identified four basic slogan alternatives for America's North Vietnamese enemies:

“Just as our side had four basic alternatives, so did Hanoi: 'escalate,' 'play-dead,' 'protract' and 'negotiate…,'

“Their 'escalation' could take the form of increased infiltration, renewed cross-border offensives, the introduction of new and better weapons, the use of foreign (fighters) and possible the opening of a new front…

“The 'play-dead' alternative was the fade-away option…, giving the impression that the war was ending or, at least subsiding.

“'Protract' corresponded to our stick-it-out and implied a continuation of the (their current) strategy…

“'Negotiate' alternative was to resort to the negotiation table as a new sector of conflict and maneuver…"

General Taylor (as Presidential Consultant) recommended to LBJ that America should stick-it-out and that the president should make every effort to stiffen the backbone of the home front. General Taylor even offered to the then President (LBJ) what his advice would be if he was advising his 1967 communist enemies. It is disturbing to consider it’s relevance to the situation in Iraq today. General Taylor wrote in his book (p. 380):

“I even ventured (to the president)… what I would recommend to (our enemies) if I were one of (their) advisers. My advice to (them) would be to also stay on his present course of military, terrorist and political action, in spite of the (military) disappointments of (the past)…"

As we know now, Taylor and the administration misjudged their enemy and got it terribly wrong. In fact the enemy would have rejected Taylor’s gratuitous advice to maintain the status quo, as General Taylor writes (p. 380):

“(The enemy’s) choice (instead of "stay the course") was for all-out escalation in 1968…”

Of course there are many who still remember what "all out escalation" meant: The Tet Offensive of 1968.


Bill Moore
11-24-2006, 04:46 PM
Just thinking out loud here, but will more trainers equate to a better Iraqi Army? While the training given in many cases was probably less than ideal, it should still be enough to allow the Army to stand superior to the insurgents. It "seems" the real issue is the "will" of the Army and Police to fight for the government of Iraq. With the exception of very few elite units, the loyality of the uniformed fighters tends to gravitate to tribal interests instead of national interests.

My questions for the council are:

1. If we train and equipment more Iraqi soldiers will that address their "will" to fight for the nationalist cause?

2. If we train and equipment more Iraqi soldiers and police, are we in effect training and equipping militia forces, since many may continue to defect?

3. Are there any other options than the three proposed in the articles above?

I would also caution that the author's view (above) that the fight is largely restricted to Baghdad is misleading. The fight continues in Al Anbar and north to Mosul. Ethnic tensions are still mounting in Kirkuk, and whether that regional debate will be resolved politically or by the gun is still to be determined. We all understand that winning the battle isn't enough, you have to stay long after the battle to deny the area to the enemy, which equates to more troops. The numbers required are debatable, but there is no way of getting around the point that more troops (ours, someone elses, or Iraqis that will fight) are needed.

11-25-2006, 05:51 AM

I think there are other options. Tweaking the number of brigades and divisions on the ground doesn't tell us anything about what those units will be doing.

The current strategy seems to involve sending units to the most violent areas and conducting counter insurgency lite - lots of patrols and dynamic looking operations (although with a softer touch of late) - but little effort to live among the civilian population. The constant shifting tends to undercut the status quo and put our troops directly in the line of fire of whichever foe happens to control the local neighborhood.

An extreme strategy shift would be to conduct only training and advisory missions. This could be done by a few hundred green berets from the relative safety of the Kurdish controlled north (at the extreme end). Chaos would reign, but without US troops in the line of fire nobody'd give a damn.

A more moderate change would implement a Combined Action Platoon type of strategy - small groups of US troops living in Iraqi neighborhoods. The US teams would form the core of neighborhood self defense groups. The neighborhood groups would have a hard time committing atrocities without their American partners noticing, while they wouldn't provoke the locals to nearly the same degree.

Another shift would be to convert in country troops to light infantry formations. The higher tooth to tail ratio would keep combat power practically identical while allowing substantial withdrawals.

We might also deploy our troops differently. A program of controlling quiet, rural areas and slowly strangling off the major cities and the Sunni triangle has potential. Especially if we're able to build local institutions on a small scale, instead of trying to build national institutions and work our way down. If a little village or whatever comes into our hands, that's great. We keep adding them up. If we lose it, no big deal, it's too small for the insurgents to make a big deal out of it.

Another option would be a southern strategy of securing Basra (which has both our supply lines and our escape route) while slowly working our way north. If it works, we need fewer troops to guard those convoys (and the convoys are harder to hit). Shiite militias get undercut (government forces run things). If it fails, our way out is held open. You'd have to rely on Iraqi forces and special ops guys to control the Sunni Triangle and Baghdad (good luck with that), but it'd be temporary.

A lot of these options can be combined, of course.