As the Adminstration continues to toy around with the idea of drawing down the level of American forces in Iraq in time for the 2006 American elections, it is important to ask ourselves whether or not we truly have the troop levels in Iraq.
While some people are loath to do so, it seems that our own military units have asked themselves that question and have concluded that they do need more reinforcements -- regardless of what their civilian and military superiors say:
quote:A Marine regiment that took heavy casualties last week in western Iraq - including 19 killed from a Reserve unit headquartered in Ohio - had repeatedly asked for about 1,000 more troops. Those requests were not granted.
Regimental Combat Team 2 began asking for additional troops to police its volatile 24,000-square-mile territory before most of its Marines deployed in February, said operations officer Lt. Col. Christopher Starling, 39, of Jacksonville, N.C.
Starling said the unit could "optimally" use one more battalion, about 1,000 troops, to take some of the pressure off the Reserve unit, which is spearheading an offensive in the region. "With a fourth battalion, I wouldn't have to play pick-up ball," Starling said.
The requests for additional forces were passed to higher headquarters in nearby Ramadi; it is unclear whether they went beyond that level, Starling said.
The casualties in the area don't "appear to be related to the troop level situation," said Air Force Brig. Gen. Donald Alston, a U.S. military spokesman. He said he wasn't aware of the requests for additional forces.
But the issue highlights whether there are enough U.S. and Iraqi troops to battle a deeply rooted insurgency.
Thomas Hammes, a retired Marine colonel who has written a book on anti-insurgency tactics, said ground commanders have been saying that they don't have enough troops to cover the country, despite the Pentagon's insistence that they do.
Pentagon spokesman Larry DiRita said Sunday, "I don't doubt every colonel wishes he had more in his area, but the decisions about how troops are (deployed) are made by the commanders above them."
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said that he would authorize an increase in the number of troops in Iraq if top commanders asked for them. The Pentagon says that so far they haven't.
Alston said it was "not uncommon for commanders in the field to say 'I need more troops.' "
One of the regiment's three battalions, a Reserve unit headquartered in Ohio, was particularly hard hit last week. A roadside bomb killed 14 Marines in an armored vehicle Wednesday, two days after five Marines from the battalion were killed by small-arms fire.
The difficulty in pacifying Iraq's desolate western region shows the challenges of fighting an insurgency in which fighters who have been pushed out of one town or city regroup elsewhere.
Additional forces might allow U.S. and Iraqi government forces to maintain security after chasing insurgents out of their hide-outs. "Presence leads to security, which leads to stability," Starling said.
U.S. policy is to have Iraqi security forces take on more responsibility so that U.S. forces can begin withdrawing. "The honest, simple answer is we need more resources," said Lt. Col. Lionel Urquhart, commander of the Reserve battalion. "Yes, we need more forces, but what we need is more Iraqi forces."
It's spelled "altar" Godot. Just a little pet peeve of mine.
It appears, David, that field commanders aren't getting the message past the "top commanders" Rumsfeld mentions. That means that the top commanders are not listening to requests from field commanders, not receiving them in the first place (somehow), or not passing them on to the Pentagon.
That's not a good thing, unless it's got one hell of a good explanation.
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We're reducing troop levels because we're (quietly) admitting that we've lost the war already and there's no point throwing away more lives.
This will come out eventually, when the insurgents take over and overthrow the government we helped set up, and the Iraqi casualties triple or quadruple as a result.
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