Questioning the Surge (UPDATED) Posted by: McQ
on Saturday, January 06, 2007
Yesterday, Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman articulated the case for the much discussed “surge” of troops in Iraq. Said Lieberman:
“The battlefield is in Baghdad and Anbar, not in Washington, and we need to support the president as he goes forward — hopefully — with exactly that kind of new initiative in Iraq,” he said.
McCain said that to win in Iraq required a “substantial and sustained surge”. Maybe it’s just me, but that sounds like an escalation, not a surge.
And still not clear is what the purpose of this surge would be even though McCain offered some specifics about his ideas concerning it:
McCain called for a minimum of six additional Army brigades — roughly 25,000 soldiers — to be sent to Iraq, especially translators, Special Forces and civil affairs officers.
He said the previous strategy of trying to train Iraqi troops and turn over security patrol duties to them hasn’t worked and that American troops were needed to impose and maintain order and to prevent ethnic cleansing.
He warned that his recommendation “will mean more casualties and extra hardships for our brave fighting men and women” and that “the violence may get worse before it gets better. We have to be prepared for this.”
I think I can, without hesitation, promise the last two things are true even if we still don’t know for certain what they’d be doing there (although I think it is fairly clear that McCain thinks we ought to go in there and conduct MOUT operations to clear the city of Baghdad, a certain escalation with the most demanding, difficult and high casualty mission to which one could commit troops).
At Camp Loyalty, south of Baghdad's Sadr City area, Capt. David Eastburn's company conducts daily convoys through neighborhoods that, troops here say, overwhelmingly support the Shiite Jaish al-Mahdi (JAM), also known as the Mahdi Army militia. Eastburn says the troops in his company are stretched thin, often conducting multiple patrols a day. But he and his soldiers say they're doubtful military solutions–even more troops–will fix what's wrong. "I don't feel it'll really change much," says Lt. Jonathan Martin. "If we are here for 18 months or 10 years, I don't think it's going to make much of a difference."
Part of that is because the problem in Iraq isn’t the number of our troops, but the proliferation of militias, especially JAM. As long as that situation endures, how many troops we have on the ground isn’t really going to make much of a difference.
A little further up the chain of command, feelings aren’t much different:
The troops echo the concerns of headquarters in Baghdad, where officials hope that enhanced military training teams will speed improvements in the capabilities of Iraqi forces–and enable an exit by U.S. forces. But even as they face that task, they are loath to call for more troops. "My sense is we have enough stuff to do with what we got," says a senior military official in Baghdad. "The issue is authorization–authorization to do what you want to do with that force. What can you do with these forces?"
Al-Maliki is uneasy about the possible introduction of more U.S. troops, aides said, and he has repeatedly refused U.S. demands to crush the militia of anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, one of the prime minister's most powerful backers.
Sami al-Askari, an al-Maliki political adviser, told The Associated Press on Friday that al-Maliki had not acquiesced to a reported White House plan to send as many as 9,000 more U.S. troops to Baghdad alone.
So my question from the last time I discussed this remain unanswered: what is the mission of the surge troops? It should be clear, concise and "achievable" by ground military forces. Additionally however, I now want to know what, in terms of time, constitutes a ‘surge’ vs. an ‘escalation’? Given what we’re hearing about the coming plan, through leaks, the mission is nebulous and the timeframe is more of an escalation than a surge. And it isn’t at all clear that the Maliki government is buying into any of it.
We also see reports that the commanders in Iraq will soon be replaced. Of course Abaizid has said this was a planned event (his retirement) long before it was announced, and that 3+ years in theater were definitely more than enough. Gen. Casey is being kicked upstairs to become Army Chief of Staff. But also rumored is less than enthusiastic acceptance by these two of the necessity of a surge. It is said the incoming commanders are much more supportive of the idea.
Last but not least, a couple of interesting paragraphs:
Adding 10,000 or 20,000 more U.S. combat troops — mostly soldiers and Marines — isn't going to improve Iraqi willingness to fight their own fight — an imperative if we are to claim victory in this war. While putting 200,000 American or NATO troops on the Iranian and Syrian borders to stop infiltration might make sense, that's "mission impossible" given the size of U.S. and allied armed forces.
A "surge" or "targeted increase in U.S. troop strength" or whatever the politicians want to call dispatching more combat troops to Iraq isn't the answer. Adding more trainers and helping the Iraqis to help themselves, is. Sending more U.S. combat troops is simply sending more targets
Any guesses who said this? John Murtha? Nope, not this time. This was written by Oliver North. Folks, if hyper-hawk Oliver North can’t find any “good” in a surge, you better believe everyone should be questioning the efficacy of such a plan.
Iraq's prime minister said Saturday that Iraqi forces would launch a new effort — with U.S. troops in a supporting role — to wrest control of Baghdad's neighborhoods from militias and other sectarian killers.
Iraqi forces were to begin a neighborhood-by-neighborhood assault on militants in the capital this weekend, even before the White House announced a long-awaited new strategy to contain Sunni insurgents and Shiite death squads.
''The Baghdad security plan will not offer a safe shelter for outlaws regardless of their ethnic and political affiliations, and we will punish anyone who hesitates to implement orders because of his ethnic and political background,'' Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said in a speech at the 85th anniversary celebration of the Iraqi army.
By Saturday afternoon, there was no evidence of elevated American or Iraqi troop levels on Baghdad's streets, and only routine levels of violence, including two car bombs and the discovery of 27 bodies in a heavily Sunni district just north of the Green Zone.
So far all talk, little action. Also a reminder:
Last summer the U.S. military and Iraqi army flooded the capital with 12,000 additional troops to the same purpose. By October, the U.S. military spokesman said the operation had not met expectations and the situation was disheartening. The last half of 2006 was one of the most violent periods in the center and west of the country since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
And we're talking about adding 10,000 to 20,000 to that effort? I say let al-Maliki run his operation and let's see the level of seriousness displayed by both the ISF and the government before we commit to help with increased troops.
If it destroys any ambitions I may have, I’m willing to pay that price gladly," McCain said Friday, brushing aside scenarios of political fallout." -Sen John McCain
Awe, gee Sen. McCain, that’s so honorable of you to risk your presidential ambitions by adding to the death toll in Iraq ....
Let’s see what did those 3000 (and climbing) troops do? Oh, right they died. You’re willing to risk losing the Presidency so more can die, (not to mention the tens of thousands with significant morbidity like amputations, brain injuries, spine injuries ... the list goes on and on.
Sounds fair to me Sen. McCain! You’re so BRAVE ... not.
Ollie understands from painful experience, as do I, that in Vietnam, the problem was strategy, not tactics. IOW, when requested to accomplish most objectives, the troops in Vietnam, even though not volunteers, tended to meet those objectives. The problem was the objectives they were requested to accomplish day in and day out often were not useful in the overall mission of keeping the North Vietnamese from the control of South Vietnam.
In that type of mission (essentially the same one in which we are engaged in Iraq), you must have a group of committed and capable patriots in the country in question who can run the country and defend it from the bad guys. Without this, long term success is impossible.
There is an old golf saying, "drive for show and putt for dough". In the business of defeating an insurgency, killing the bad guys is akin to driving in golf. It gets attention and respect.
But identifying, nurturing and enabling the committed and capable core of governors and defenders is like golf’s putting. It takes calculation, iron nerves, practice and patience.
More troops will not provide those qualities, unless they are engaged in activities targeted to assuring the "putters" can accomplish their mission.
The problem is not the number of troops and never has been.
Change the ROE to ones that would indicate that we intend to win and turn the troops loose to disband and disarm (dismember if necessary) the militias and any other armed militants in the country. The US didn’t even use these hyper-restrictive ROE at Waco!!!
These idiotic ROE (which started with JFK and McNamara), have yet to be proven to be compatible with victory. There is no history of any military success following the current ROE and is it well past time to discontinue the "humane war" experiment.
Disclaimer: POV comes from medically retired SF troop ’69 - ’79 having collected over 6yrs of combat pay in 10 years of service.