web counter Media Lies: Troop strength changes under Rumsfeld

Thursday, December 23, 2004

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Troop strength changes under Rumsfeld

This is the third article in my series analyzing the troop strength arguments. I've been doing a tremendous amount of reading about the issue today, and I've learned a great deal more about it.

In November of last year, the administration was actually planning on reducing troop strength from 130,000 to 105,000 within six months. The article also discusses the adaptations that military planners were making at that time to adjust to the tactics of the enemy.

One month later, at the request of General Abizaid, the force strength was increased in what was considered to be a temporary move at the time.

In April of 2004 troop strength increases were announced again. It's hard to tell, because numbers seem quite fungible, but if there was an increase, it doesn't appear to have been significant. Reported force levels remained at or about 130,000. (I say reported because it appears that some forces - special ops, for example - are not being reported.)

Troop strength in Iraq is being increased prior to the elections by 10,000 to 11,000. This, of course, is much less than some people think we need. This article also notes that attacks across Iraq have dropped from 130 a day to 50 a day since the battle of Fallujah. This is an indication that the strategy is working, although no one should cheer about 50 attacks a day. I should also note that the Iraqis bear the brunt of the attacks.

Aside from the two incursions into Fallujah, US fatalities in Iraq have remained fairly steady. Over 22% of the fatalities have been non-combat related, including sickness, suicide and accidents.

In June of 2004 Congress increased the total size of the Army by 20,000. Again, I can't tell what this really means because the Army was already over its Congressionally mandated size (482,000) due to stop-loss orders (+11,000). So, did Congress, in essence, authorize slightly more than the number they were already over? Or did they authorize an additional 20,000?

Besides, Rumsfeld had already authorized a temporary increase of 30,000 (to 512,000) in January. Retired General Barry McCaffrey has argued for an increase of 80,000 which, ironically, would put the Army at the end strength levels that Colin Powell had argued that we needed more than ten years ago.

Some have actually argued that we need 500,000 troops in Iraq. We only have 493,000 total personnel in the Army! The assertion is ridiculous and displays a complete ignorance about present troop strengths, troop rotation needs, rest time, retraining and all the other elements of maintaining an effective force.

Based on my research, I think the Army probably needs to increase in end strength (total size), but until it does, there simply aren't any additional forces available to move into Iraq. Furthermore, experts can't even agree on how many additional forces we need longterm. In the meantime, the Pentagon is forced to overuse the reserves as well as the active duty forces, but these problems are the manifestation of bad decisions made long ago.

Claims that Rumsfeld ignores the generals simply don't seem based in an understanding of the problems we have right now. Even if Rumsfeld agreed that we needed 50,000 more troops in Iraq, where would he get them from?