Joint Chiefs Reiterate: Sending More Troops NOT an Option; Bush Facing Potential Flip-Flop
President George "I-listen-to-the-generals-on-troop-levels" Bush is up against it.
Last Thursday, it was reported that the Joint Chiefs of Staff told Bush that they did NOT favor adding troops to Iraq .
Yet reports this weekend continued to suggest that Bush was considering boosting troop strength in Iraq by anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 to curb the insurgency.
Well, it looks like the Joint Chiefs is heeding their own experts who suggest that it would take a force in excess of 500,000 troops just to maintain stability (had there not been a full-fledged insurgency already ongoing):
The population of Iraq today is nearly 25 million. That population would require 500,000 foreign troops on the ground to meet a standard of 20 troops per thousand residents. This number is more than three times the number of foreign troops now deployed to Iraq (see figure). For a sustainable stabilization force on a 24-month rotation cycle, the international community would need to draw on a troop base of 2.5 million troops. Such numbers are clearly not feasible and emphasize the need for the rapid creation of indigenous security forces even while foreign troops continue to be deployed. The extremely low force ratio for Afghanistan, a country with a population even larger than that of Iraq, shows the implausibility of current stabilization efforts by external forces.
According to Tuesday's Washington Post:
By Robin Wright and Peter Baker
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, December 19, 2006; Page A01
The Bush administration is split over the idea of a surge in troops to Iraq, with White House officials aggressively promoting the concept over the unanimous disagreement of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to U.S. officials familiar with the intense debate.
The Joint Chiefs think the White House, after a month of talks, still does not have a defined mission and is latching on to the surge idea in part because of limited alternatives, despite warnings about the potential disadvantages for the military, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the White House review is not public.
The chiefs have taken a firm stand, the sources say, because they believe the strategy review will be the most important decision on Iraq to be made since the March 2003 invasion.
At regular interagency meetings and in briefing President Bush last week, the Pentagon has warned that any short-term mission may only set up the United States for bigger problems when it ends. The service chiefs have warned that a short-term mission could give an enormous edge to virtually all the armed factions in Iraq -- including al-Qaeda's foreign fighters, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias -- without giving an enduring boost to the U.S military mission or to the Iraqi army, the officials said.
The Pentagon has cautioned that a modest surge could lead to more attacks by al-Qaeda, provide more targets for Sunni insurgents and fuel the jihadist appeal for more foreign fighters to flock to Iraq to attack U.S. troops, the officials said.
Does Bush still "listen to the generals" or will he now ignore them and send an additional token, political-ass-covering number of troops to Iraq? Since it appears that the Joint Chiefs is sticking to its guns (pun intended), will Bush force any of them to resign, ala Shinsecki, when Shinsecki had the nerve to counter the claims of Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz that we would only need about 150,000 troops?
Don't forget that Rumsfeld repeated the administration mantra on troop levels on the way out the door last week: Blame the generals. (The administration cowards never own up to their own failings.)
Oh, and the "train the Iraqis" myth? Some sobering news:
By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 19, 2006; Page A01
The Pentagon said yesterday that violence in Iraq soared this fall to its highest level on record and acknowledged that anti-U.S. fighters have achieved a "strategic success" by unleashing a spiral of sectarian killings by Sunni and Shiite death squads that threatens Iraq's political institutions.
In its most pessimistic report yet on progress in Iraq, the Pentagon described a nation listing toward civil war, with violence at record highs of 959 attacks per week, declining public confidence in government and "little progress" toward political reconciliation.
And this report, unlike the prior one, omitted any explicit statement that Iraq is not in a civil war. Sunni and Shiite militias, aided at times by government forces, are gaining legitimacy by protecting neighborhoods and providing relief supplies, it said.
The report noted problems with Iraqi forces, however, saying the number of soldiers and police actually "present for duty" is far lower than the number trained and equipped.
Subtracting those Iraqi forces killed and wounded, and those who have quit the force, only 280,000 are "available for duty," Sattler said. About 30 percent of that number are "on leave" at a time, he said, leaving fewer than 196,000 on the job.
Iraq police forces in particular are increasingly corrupt, the report found, saying some police in Baghdad have supported Shiite death squads. The police "facilitated freedom of movement and provided advance warning of upcoming operations," it said. "This is a major reason for the increased levels of murders and executions."
As a result of mass defections or police units being pulled off duty, the number of Iraqi police battalions rated as having "lead responsibility" in their areas fell from six to two, the report said, although officials said that number has since increased.
As I posted on December 8 over at Daily Kos:
Iraq is over for us. We are not being effective. We are targets in the middle of a civil war. And the Iraqi government is non-functional and showing no signs of improvement.
The Joint Chiefs assessment of Iraq suggests the same: time to move on.
Will Bush heed his own words and "listen to the generals?" Or will he compound the massive mistakes he and Cheney have already made and ignore the warnings of those who know -- just as he did on the way into Iraq?
I think we already know the answer to this question. When faced with a right choice and a wrong choice on Iraq, Bush has always made the wrong call. Unfortunately for our troops and our nation, he is likely to continue his streak.