Tuesday, September 20, 2011

If It Is 3,000

So I've speculated about leaving 25,000 or even 10,000 troops in Iraq after this year to deter Iran, deter Iraqi factions from resorting to arms to settle political disputes, help the Iraqis finish the internal security job, and train the Iraqi military in general. I've worried that 3,000 would be hostages and not a force for any of those missions, but I guess I'd rather have some troops than none.

So how would I put 3,000 troops in Iraq?

I'd organize it around 3 brigade combat teams--1 Stryker brigade and 2 Heavy brigades--that would do double duty as trainers and as the core of a reasonably potent ground force.

In the north to reduce friction between Arabs and Kurds (and others), I'd have a Stryker battalion plus a brigade headquarters and headquarters company (most) on the ground (call it 750 troops). The rest of the brigade would be in the United States, but the unit would keep sets of equipment for the remainder of the brigade in Iraq. This would be maintained and guarded by private contractors.

In the Baghdad region, I'd have a combined arms battalion and a reduced HHC on the ground (say 850 troops) with the equipment stored west of Baghdad for the remainder of a heavy brigade.

In the Basra region, I'd have a combined arms battalion, the brigade's recon squadron, and the reduced HHC (1,250 troops) with the equipment for the rest of the brigade stored in Kuwait.

The last 150 could be special forces with the CIA providing the bulk of the special ops people. The military special forces would be mostly to provide the cover that any such operations are done by our troops.

Any logistics people or air force training people would have to be contractors. (Note: That is, contractors would be used inside Iraq. Military personnel could be based in Kuwait and perhaps sent in as needed outside the limit for short periods.)

We'd have a heavy brigade based in Kuwait to run supply convoys throughout Iraq, and so wouldn't count in the ceiling. A brigade set of equipment in Kuwait would allow for rapid reinforcement as would another set that I think is in the region.

A Marine Expeditionary Unit afloat would be a reserve force. The Marines could get a full brigade's set to the region quickly.

Our parachute brigade in Italy should be earmarked for Iraq in an emergency.

So if needed, we'd have 8 brigades available for pretty rapid deployment within Iraq.

Air power could be handled from aircraft in surrounding carriers and nations.

And maybe we could squeeze others in if we define troops deployed in Iraq for the ceiling as only those who spend three months on the ground there. So if we could rotate hundreds of support personnel through Iraq in tours of less than 3 months, maybe we could replace contractors or even CIA special operations people with uniformed personnel for those jobs.

This isn't anywhere near ideal, but we go to 2012 with the agreement we have and not the agreement I'd like to have.

UPDATE: The basic point is that 3,000 isn't enough. Oh, we might be fine with it, but to accomplish the missions we need to set for post-New Dawn Iraq we need to work around the limit and use loopholes in the limit. And I could be completely wrong about being able to rely on remote, intermittent, and contractor logistics and support functions. If we can't, my priority on combat forces goes out the window.