TROOP STRENGTH….Is the Army big enough to handle both Afghanistan and Iraq? Consider:
About 10% of our troop strength in Korea, 3,600 soldiers, is being pulled out and redeployed to Iraq.
Rumors are now swirling that one of two maneuver squadrons (battalions) of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment will soon deploy from Fort Irwin, California, to Afghanistan, and two of the three companies of the 1st Battalion of the 509th Infantry Regiment will travel from Fort Polk, Louisiana, to Iraq. These units are the permanent “opposing forces,” or OPFOR, at the National Training Center and the Joint Readiness Training Center respectively.
This will almost certainly degrade our overall level of training, since OPFOR is used to run field exercises against other units from all over the Army.
These are desperation moves. It’s obvious that unless we pull out of Iraq we need more troops there, but the only action Don Rumsfeld is willing to take is to pinch a few troops here and a few troops there to plug some small holes in the dike. It’s like looking under the cushions for spare change when you’re having trouble making your car payment.
What I’m curious about is why Rumsfeld and Bush are so obviously reluctant to call for a permanent increase in the size of the Army. It’s not a short-term solution, of course, but they claim to be dedicated to staying in Iraq for several years if that’s what it takes. They also appear to believe that we will be on a war footing for years or decades to come, and by now they’ve surely learned the lesson that while technology might win a war, only boots on the ground can make an occupation work.
But despite all that, they still refuse to abandon their increasingly desperate string of band-aid fixes and consider a permanent solution: increasing the size of the Army by a few divisions. It’s easy to understand why war opponents would oppose this, but surely war supporters would just as eagerly embrace it. So why not go ahead and propose it, especially since there’s a broad consensus that in addition to jeopardizing the mission in Iraq, our overextension also leaves us dangerously exposed in the event of an emergency elsewhere in the world?
Hard to say. Arrogance? Incompetence? Perhaps, but to me it looks more like just another case of Bush being unwilling to back up his tough talk. He wants credit for being rock solid on national security, but he’s not willing to do anything politically risky to achieve his goals. He is, in the end, a political coward.