Thursday, January 06, 2005

Advisers Not New

When I saw the headline "US May Add Advisers to Aid Iraq's Military" and started reading this article, I thought, "What the heck? Aren't we doing this already?!"

Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top commander in Iraq, is reviewing a proposal to add hundreds of American military advisers to work directly with Iraqi units, whose disappointing performance could jeopardize the long-term American exit strategy from Iraq, senior military officials said Monday.

Americans are training Iraqi police officers and national guard troops to replace them in securing the country, but the results over all have been troubling, with growing desertion rates in the most violent provinces, gaps in leadership, and poor battlefield performance, American military officers and troops say.

The advisers would bolster the Iraqi will to fight, help train officers who would lead the troops, curb desertion and provide Iraqi forces with the confidence that American units would back them up - in some cases fighting alongside them if needed, military and Pentagon officials said

Adding advisers to increase the effectivess of allied units is standard practice I thought. Our guys provide advice, access to artillery and air power, and on-the-job training to correct problems. We aren't doing this?

But then I read further down:

Several hundred American troops are already embedded with Iraqi units, following a long tradition in American military actions. But the proposal would greatly expand this presence.

Ah, it remains our practice. But we will "greatly expand" the practice since it is clearly way too small. It seems another mistake has been unearthed. But the article than says that "several hundred" US troops will be added as advisers. I'll assume "several" means about 300 give our take 50. Wow. Our current efforts must be grossly insufficient if 350 more greatly expands the program. The article does note that 1st CAV does have 540 troops doing this in their Baghdad sector (a press conference notes they are attached to 7 Iraqi National Guard battalions). Also noted:

There are now 10-man adviser and support teams with each of 27 regular Iraqi Army and intervention force battalions (nine of which are still in training), their nine brigade headquarters (three still in training) and their three division headquarters, senior military officials in Iraq said.

In addition, adviser teams from Army Special Forces and other American units are with most of the Iraqi National Guard forces.

Expanding on those adviser teams, the proposal before General Casey would probably provide 10-man teams with 45 existing and 20 emerging national guard battalions.

The story also notes that in addition to 1st CAV, some Marine units do this (no surprise there either given the Marine Corps long experience in working with locals). The reporter did not know if other units did or did not do this.

So 540 1st CAV troopers; plus the Marines, which could add another 1,000 given that there are more Marines than Cavalry troopers; add 390 to the headquarters units noted; and assume that the other Army units do something similiar (the article does note that American advisers are stationed with Mosul police units) and we might be able to add another 1,000.

Granted, this quote seems to be something to hang the leap on:

General Ham, noting the earlier efforts by some units, said, "It's time to apply it on a larger scale."

But what does "larger scale" mean? There is a lot of uncertainty, but the correction of an implied mistake is too much of a leap to make given what we know. Maybe this news is of a great expansion. Or maybe it is an incremental increase.

Whatever the truth, the NYT tries to complain both ways:

Although diverting soldiers might be risky at a time when commanders say they need troops to press offensives against insurgents, the plan addresses a widely acknowledged need.

Perhaps I'm overly sensitive but it seem like the NYT wants to highlight an error and then hammer the solution, too.

I would like to know how long we've had advisers in Iraqi units. Even before the invasion I speculated that we could organize light infantry battalions with US forces as advisers to help with taking Baghdad should the Baathist try a last-ditch defense of the city (I did feel that a last stand was unlikely to happen, however). This might be a major mistake. It might not be. It might just be the normal adjustments of practice that come with experience. It might be nothing at all. This article doesn't tell me what this is.

In any case, putting advisers in Iraqi units is a very good idea. So good that I assumed we did it all along.