There's been some distress about the Pentagon's announcement
that they're planning to maintain troop deployments in Iraq until 2010. In fact, to do otherwise would be pretty damn irresponsible, since, lacking a sudden and unexpected outbreak of sanity or justice in D.C., Bush has made it clear that withdrawal will be the problem for some future administration. That means we're there until January, 2009 at the minimum, and developing and implementing a withdrawal will likely take us close to, if not into, the next year. Even if "out now" meant starting now, a sane withdrawal, one that gives even a modicum of respect to the lives and safety of the troops, will take a considerable while.
The bigger question, in my mind, regarding continued deployments, is not how many, but who. Current deployment levels are already breaking the Army...
The Army is finding that the amount of time soldiers enjoy between Iraq tours has been shrinking this year. In the case of a brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division, its deployment to Iraq was delayed by about six weeks because it otherwise would have had only 11 months to prepare instead of the minimum 12 months. As a result, the unit it was going to replace has been forced to stay beyond its normal 12-month deployment.
In separate remarks to reporters, Gen. Richard Cody, the Army vice chief of staff, said soldiers need more than 12 months between deployments to Iraq so they can do a full range of combat training and complete the kinds of educational programs that enable the Army to grow a fully mature officer corps.
As more and more troops find themselves spending two years of a three or four year enlistment in the sandbox, retention will continue to be a problem, impacting the corps of non-coms as well. Maintaining current force levels has already meant stop-loss orders and lowered enlistment standards. Even then, enlistment goals have been adjusted downward to stop the constant reports of failure by recruiters. It's hard to imagine how this will get any better as the war drags on. Given recent history, it's easier to predict that the continued occupation will require more, not fewer, troops than current planning calls for. Todd at The Blue State
supplies the reality check...
· PREDICTION: In January of 2004, the Pentagon predicted that by May of that year the United States would cut its troop presence from 130,000 to roughly 105,000 forces.
· REALITY: The troop reduction never happened. In November of 2004, President Bush increased troop presence to 150,000 for the Falluja offensive.
· PREDICTION: In November of 2005, the Pentagon announced that troop levels would be reduced from 150,000 to under 100,000 by the end of 2006.
· REALITY: By October of 2006, troop levels currently stand at 138,000.
· PREDICTION: On October 11, 2006, the Pentagon announced that troop levels will remain the same through 2010.
· REALITY: ?
As the situation on the ground continues to deteriorate, simply maintaining adequate security for our troops, let alone accomplishing any kind of meaningful mission objectives, will have some commanders looking for more, not fewer, troops. In fact, there may not be enough boots on the ground today to provide the framework for a secure and orderly withdrawal. Meanwhile, there's a rebellion
in the ranks of the Army budget planners who need more resources for more troops, since the occupation of Iraq has crippled our ability to respond to any emergent security needs, a position which Rumsfeld opposes because the cost of troops threaten his policy of short-changing military manpower in favor of military contractors and new weapons systems. Rational planners at the Pentagon are aware that Bush and Rumsfeld's passion for their pre-emptive, elective, offensive war have damaged, if not destroyed, much of our defensive capacity. That's just one of the reasons I hate what they've done to my Army.
Like Todd, I don't know what reality the future holds. The first step on the path to a sane and secure future, though, begins in 26 days, with a new Congress that will empower Democratic hawks like Senator Kerry and Representative Murtha to change the Bushco™ route to disaster and begin restoring the United States armed forces to the position of preeminence they have historically enjoyed under Democratic leadership.
There's another alternative, of couse…