Wednesday, October 04, 2006

More US Troops in Iraq?

I don't think we need more US troops in Iraq.

This First Lieutentant who served in Iraq believes we do, based on his experience in Iraq:

Two things are to blame for our predicament, one a corollary of the other. The first reason is that we did not have enough troops in Samarra. The skill and courage of 150 American soldiers prevented chaos, but was never enough to fully secure a city of 120,000 people or maintain the rule of law. The soldiers in the city were preoccupied with defending themselves and conducting night raids, and were therefore largely unable to regularly patrol during the day--thus giving insurgents reign to move freely and intimidate the local population. A visitor in Samarra on an average day would be hard-pressed to point out a single American humvee traversing local neighborhoods. The same is true for Baghdad.

Our four-vehicle civil-affairs patrol was often the only American presence deep inside the city and we were frequently greeted by locals with the question, "Where have you been?" Americans can't of course be omnipresent; but we should at least be there when it matters. When Americans are there, either the insurgents are not or they are on the losing side of a firefight.

Second, because of a lack of troops, American military leaders are forced to make a choice between mission objectives and self-preservation. Many of our leaders are opting to guard supply routes and coagulate on sprawling military bases, rather than consistently moving into dangerous areas and fighting the insurgency. In our case, we had 500 soldiers stationed outside Samarra who made infrequent trips into the city center. There is little reason why most of these troops were not stationed inside Samarra, canvassing every neighborhood with platoon-sized patrol bases and suffocating insurgent operations.

First of all, I expect he could have used more troops for his mission. Any good commander could find uses for more troops. Second, I do not doubt that he sincerely believes we need more troops. Third, I believe his call for more troops is so we will win in Iraq. And finally, he could be right. I don't think so, but I am far away and relying on what I read. I could be wrong.

But I think the lieutenant's description of the situation undercuts his call for more troops. He said we only had 150 inside Samarra. Plus Iraqis of unknown number. I don't know why they apparently don't count, but I'll ignore that. More to the point, he also says we had 500 troops outside Samarra who rarely went in the city.

Why do we need extra troops sent to Iraq if we could more than quadruple our troop strength (based on this example) just by using what we have differently? Why should we add 500 new troops to Iraq so they can go inside the cities and still keep 500 existing troops under-used outside those same cities?

Clearly, if we have a problem it isn't troop strength. It is rather how we use them. This is a matter of strategy and not numbers.

We've decided that our strategy to win is to push Iraqis forward and so we pull back a bit to keep the Iraqis from slacking off and relying on us. I think that this is the proper solution to winning.

But if we need more troops to fight in Iraq, we should look inside Iraq before we ship more over.