Friday, September 28, 2007

For the Long Haul

Winning the war in Iraq will require our troops to remain in Iraq a long time.

Since prior to the war until now, I've figured our long-term garrision for Iraq will be in the 4-7 brigade range for combat units on the ground.

My feelings on this number have ebbed and flowed based on my perception of the country's mood:

We will need to keep special forces to help kill al Qaeda. And we will need air power to support the Iraqis and logistics troops, too. And all the other combat support and combat service support functions that we are trying to build. Plus a cavalry regiment to screen the Iranian border and several brigade combat teams as a reserve and to deter the Iranians. Add a battalion task force in Kuwait, an afloat MEU, and several brigade sets of Army equipment and an afloat Marine set, and we'd have a potent force tethered to the defense of Iraq. Add, too, a parachute brigade in Italy and a Stryker brigade in Europe that can be flown into the area quickly. And yes, I've downgraded my assessment of what Congress will allow to remain in Iraq from a seven brigades to four with unit sets of prepositioned equipment to bring us up to seven or more by flying in troops. Oh, and add FBI help to fight corruption and other civilian assets to help the courts and the entire rule of law project.

In this press conference there is a reference to a statement that Secretary Gates made recently of a long-term presence of 5 American brigades.

This is certainly consistent with my estimate. I'd be surprised if this estimated 5 brigades included any Army forces in Kuwait or Marines afloat in the region. So we'd have a bit more in the region.

Remember, we need such a force to deter Iran or Syria from bullying Iraq while Iraqis focus on the counter-insurgency and anti-terrorism operations while building a conventional military capable in the long run of defending their borders.

Give us ten years, and we could be down to a token combat brigade as we have in South Korea.