Humor, shades of Vietnam: ‘Hearts & Minds’ all over again


Richard Moore

        The confidential assessment by the commander, Lt. Gen.
        Raymond T. Odierno, reflects the military¹s new
        counterinsurgency doctrine, which puts a premium on
        sustained efforts to try to win over a wary population.

What a joke!  More easily could the wolf gain the confidence the sheep.


Original source URL:

March 8, 2007

Buildup in Iraq Needed Into ¹08, U.S. General Says

WASHINGTON, March 7 ‹ The day-to-day commander of American forces in Iraq has 
recommended that the heightened American troop levels there be maintained 
through February 2008, military officials said Wednesday.

The White House has never said exactly how long it intends the troop buildup to 
last, but military officials say the increased American force level will begin 
declining in August unless additional units are sent or more units are held 

The confidential assessment by the commander, Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, 
reflects the military¹s new counterinsurgency doctrine, which puts a premium on 
sustained efforts to try to win over a wary population. It also stems from the 
complex logistics of deploying the five additional combat brigades that are 
being sent to Iraq as part of what the White House calls a ³surge² of forces.

In fact, for now, it is really more of a trickle, since only two of the five 
brigades are in Iraq. The American military is stretched so thin that the last 
of the brigades is not expected to begin operations until June.

In both the House and the Senate, most Democrats and many Republicans have made 
clear their opposition even to the current troop increase, and a decision by the
White House to extend its duration would probably intensify the political debate
over the war.

Democratic lawmakers most strenuously opposed to the war are likely to point to 
the increased stress on the armed forces in trying to persuade party leaders to 
back a plan that would cut off financing for any troop increase, a course that 
the Democratic leadership has so far declined to embrace. In its effort to blunt
the Congressional opposition to the new strategy, the Bush administration has 
cited what it calls early signs of progress, including a reduction in sectarian 
killings in Baghdad. But military officials say it is far too soon to draw any 
firm conclusions.

President Bush has often said that he will listen closely to advice from 
commanders in the field in making decisions about strategy and manpower in Iraq,
but Pentagon officials emphasized Wednesday that no decision to extend the 
³surge² had been made. Military officials said General Odierno had provided his 
assessment to his superior, Gen. David H. Petraeus, who took over as the top 
American commander in Iraq this year. General Petraeus has yet to make a formal 
recommendation to the Pentagon.

But the question of how long the buildup should last has already become the 
focus of major concern for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Defense Secretary 
Robert M. Gates.

³We¹re looking, as we should, at each of the three possibilities: hold what you 
have, come down, or plus up if you need to,² Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the 
Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon. General Pace said that 
³early data points² showed that sectarian attacks were slightly down since the 
Baghdad operation began. But he said that the increase in car bombs suggested 
that Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia was trying to incite further hostilities with this 

When the Bush administration announced its troop buildup in January, it said it 
was sending 21,500 troops to Baghdad and Anbar Province. Since then, the 
Pentagon has said that as many as 7,000 additional support troops would also be 
deployed, including some 2,200 additional military police that General Petraeus 
had asked for to handle an anticipated increase in detainees. These increases 
would bring the total number of American troops in Iraq to around 160,000.

Any extension of the troop buildup would add to the strain on Army and Marine 
forces that have already endured years of continuous deployments. According to 
the current schedule, a Minnesota National Guard brigade whose Iraq deployment 
was extended as part of the troop reinforcement is to leave in August. A senior 
Pentagon official said that the number of forces would be down to ³presurge² 
levels in December unless additional units were sent or kept longer.

Decisions need to be made soon, Army officials say, to identify potential 
replacement units or extensions. To meet troop requirements, the Army would need
to look seriously at mobilizing additional National Guard units later this year.

Another point of stress is the amount of time active duty units have spent in 
the United States between deployments. It takes around a year at home to prepare
a combat brigade for Iraq. The Army generally has been able to avoid sending 
units back to Iraq or Afghanistan without at least a year at home.

But if Mr. Bush decides to extend the buildup, the first of the Army brigades to
return to Iraq with less than a year at home are likely to do so later this 

³As you move to less than a year, you¹re beginning to erode the ability of the 
service chiefs to produce a ready force,² said a senior Pentagon official, who 
emphasized that the United States needed to be prepared to deal with a range of 

Despite the strains, some military officials in Iraq say it is unrealistic to 
expect a troop buildup of several months to create enough of a breathing space 
for Iraqis to achieve political reconciliation. ³There is Washington time and 
Baghdad time,² said a senior Defense official in Iraq. ³Some in Washington want 
it now, and there is reality on the ground in Baghdad. They don¹t always match.²

One concern is that Shiite militants and some insurgents will try to outlast the
American troops if the buildup is too short. A longer buildup would give the 
American and Iraqi forces more time to disperse economic assistance, provide 
better protection to Iraqi neighborhoods and try to win over the Iraqi public.

³You have to protect the people long enough to get economic assistance to them 
and change their attitude and change their behavior,² said Jack Keane, the 
retired vice chief of staff of the Army, who has argued that the troop buildup 
should last 12 to 18 months. ³You cannot do that in weeks. It takes months to do
that. The problem with the short-term surge is that the enemy can wait you out.²

The recent National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq also suggested that the Iraqi 
Security Forces would not be able to assume the major responsibility for 
securing Baghdad in the near future. An unclassified version of the report noted
that ³the Iraqi Security Forces, particularly the Iraqi police, will be hard 
pressed in the next 12 to 18 months to execute significantly increased security 
responsibilities, and particularly to operate independently against Shia 
militias with success.²

Given the time needed to adjust training schedules and prepare units, decisions 
may need to be made before there is clear evidence about whether the new 
strategy is working. ³If he defers some decisions he potentially will foreclose 
deployment options downstream because people won¹t begin to move,² said a 
Pentagon official, referring to Secretary Gates. ³By deferring a decision he 
will in effect be making a decision.²

The additional American troops in the troop reinforcement plan are intended to 
support a new strategy in which American forces are taking up positions in 
Baghdad neighborhoods and not limiting themselves to conducting patrols from 
large bases. Iraqi security forces in Baghdad are also being expanded, including
by the addition of Iraqi Army units largely made up of Kurds.

The strategy calls for the establishment of 10 districts in Baghdad. At least 
one American battalion is to be paired with Iraqi units in each district. The 
hope is that this plan will afford more protection to the Iraqi public and, 
along with political and economic moves by the government, head off further 

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

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