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Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Friday | June 06, 2003

No end in sight

Eric Shinseki was right.

Iraq Stabilization Impinges on Army Rotation, Rebuilding

By Bradley Graham
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 6, 2003; Page A21

The struggling campaign to stabilize postwar Iraq has frustrated U.S. Army plans to reduce troops there and begin replenishing a military force stretched exceedingly thin by war and peacekeeping commitments, a senior Pentagon official said yesterday.

While the stress on the Army can probably be sustained for a few more months, the official said, any delay beyond that could seriously disrupt troop rotation schedules for Afghanistan and South Korea and erode the Army's ability to maintain an adequate reserve for other contingencies.

Asked if he had ever seen the Army so stretched, the official said: "Not in my 31 years" of military service.

The assessment by the official, who insisted on anonymity during a briefing of reporters from several major newspapers, provided a glimpse of one of the major sources of pressure on the Bush administration to hasten efforts to improve security in Iraq and recruit troops from other countries who can substitute for U.S. forces.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday that discussions were underway with 41 countries to contribute forces for peacekeeping duty in Iraq. While he said only a few governments had offered firm commitments, he expressed hope that the number would rise and that allied reinforcements would begin flowing into Iraq by September.

"We're talking substantial numbers," said Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Myers stood beside Rumsfeld on Capitol Hill and answered a few questions after a closed-door briefing to House members.

Asked whether the arrival of these forces would ensure that some U.S. troops could be pulled out of Iraq, Myers kept the administration's options open.

"The security situation will drive that," he said. "We aren't going to be driven by a date."

With sporadic attacks continuing on U.S. forces and a sense of insecurity still prevalent among Iraqis nationwide, plans to withdraw some U.S. troops were recently suspended. The 3rd Infantry Division, which had expected to head home after handing over responsibility for Baghdad's security to the 1st Armored Division last week, instead was told it would be staying and was given other missions to help secure western and northern Iraq.

The Army now has 128,000 troops in Iraq, along with 15,000 British troops and a U.S. Marine contingent that is drawing down to about 7,000. An additional 45,000 Army troops are in Kuwait providing support. The Army contribution adds up to the equivalent of just over five divisions out of a total active-duty strength of 10 divisions.

"This is a problem," the senior Pentagon official said, then quickly amended the comment, adding: "It is only a problem depending upon how quickly or how long it takes to get the coalition to come in to relieve this pressure."

I wouldn't hold my breath.

The "coalition" is not going to send troops into a civil war. Which is what is going to happen well before September. The mystery troops now shooting Americans are only going to grow in numbers, not shrink. Iraqis would be loath to accept any occupation, but one which leaves them in danger and victim of searches even Saddam didn't do, is one which cannot stand for long.

We have upgraded from a third rate admnistrator, Jay Garner, to a second rate administrator, L. Paul (Jerry) Bremer. One who has so little contact with the Iraqis he's "running", he travels with a special ops bodyguard and a 12 ton armored Blazer.

The British are pulling back and the Canadians have already refused a request to serve in Iraq. The rest of NATO is soon to follow and our Muslim allies are loath to have anything to with our occupation. Only the Poles have signed on. Others may send a few hundred men, if they can get that past their parliaments. Given the cluelessness of this administration, I wouldn't be surprised if they took Turkish help in occupying northern Iraq.

Why should the French send men to Iraq when this Administration calls for economic warfare against them? Why should the Germans participate when Rumsfeld wants to abrogate treaties and take jobs from thousands of their citizens? Exactly what stake do they have in our success after the heaping insults we've dropped on them?

US troops may well be stuck, not in an occupation, but a full-blown Congo-like civil war within weeks. Who is going to help us out of that mess? The coalition of the billing? Spanish and Italian troops?

I wouldn't hold my breath.

Steve Gilliard

Posted June 06, 2003 01:30 PM | Comments (93)


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