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Thread: US army 'and the end of its rope'

  1. #1
    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    Oct 2005
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    Lightbulb US army 'and the end of its rope'

    Heavy burden on families as military stretched thin, and rules on rotation, recruitment have been loosened
    Sep. 29, 2006. 06:04 AM

    The White House had a plan, of sorts, at the start of 2006: the 145,000 troops stationed in Iraq would be cut back to 100,000 by the end of the year.

    It isn't going to happen.

    Not only are troop levels not being reduced, but almost 8,000 soldiers have just had their 12-month tours of duty extended.

    This week, a 3,500-strong armoured brigade in volatile Ramadi, due to leave at the start of 2007, was told it was staying until late February. The brigade scheduled to replace it which returned from Iraq only in January will be going back for its third deployment in less than four years.

    At least it was given notice.

    Last month, their year's tour over, 300 members of a 4,000-strong combat brigade had already left for home base in Alaska when the Pentagon announced a four-month extension in Baghdad. Back they went.

    The U.S. army is being stretched so thin by the war in Iraq, say analysts, that traditional rules and regulations on troop rotation chief among them that soldiers should have two years off between combat tours are being rejigged, seemingly on the fly.

    Since the start of the Iraq war, "dwell time" as it's called, has been steadily chipped at, going from 24 months between missions down to 18 months, then 14, 12 and, in at least one case, 10 months.

    "The burden on families is incredible," says Lawrence Korb, a former assistant defence secretary in the Reagan administration, now with Center for Defence Information.

    Dwell time is also meant to give units time to refit and retrain for changing patterns of conflict. In Iraq, they are ever-changing. But Korb says "they're accelerating deployment in some cases, sending troops over who are not trained to the extent they should be."

    The United States may be the world's foremost military power, but after the fall of communism, it reduced the size of its army by 30 per cent, cutting the number of soldiers from 750,000 to the present total of 500,000. It meant that National Guard and Reserve units have been used extensively in Iraq; by last year, accounting for 40 per cent of troops.

    Reacting to heavy criticism, the Pentagon dropped the rate to 20 per cent this year. That, in turn, squeezed the army further.

    Analysts say the Pentagon has tried a variety of responses. The maximum enlistment age has been raised from 35 to 42 and signing bonuses have quadrupled since 2003. New recruits now get anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000. But Korb notes that more recruits with lower aptitude scores are being accepted and that one in five enlistees, who wouldn't have been accepted in the past for physical or psychological reasons, is now granted a waiver.

    In July, an official report revealed that two-thirds of the active-duty army was classified as "not ready for combat." With roughly one-third deployed, that means it has close to zero combat-ready brigades in reserve.

    Hence, the extended tours and speeded-up redeployments, says defence analyst Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute in Washington. "It's getting to the point where soldiers can't take the stress," he says.

    "At every step of the way, the administration has chosen to believe they were weeks away from scaling down because it overestimated the progress being made. There simply aren't enough troops to maintain current levels. The army is coming to the end of its rope in Iraq," Thompson says.

    This year has seen the bloodiest sectarian violence in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. Is it any surprise the plan to cut back troop numbers has gone awry?

    None whatsoever, says Cindy Williams, a security analyst at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Then again, the same pledge has been made every year since the war began, she dryly adds.

    "A big drop in troop levels is always just around the corner, but each year, they're surprised by events. They were surprised there was no big welcome at the start of the war, surprised at the insurgency that rose up, now they're surprised that Iraq is on the brink of civil war."

    The army is straining to plug holes, Williams says: "If they could cut back to 60,000 troops, it could be sustained more or less indefinitely and with a sensible rotation policy. But not this level."

    Another factor in the military squeeze play is that oft-repeated presidential assurance that "as the Iraqi forces stand up, we will stand down" has hit several snags. Some 128,000 Iraqi troops have now been trained, but she says there are "clear problems with their loyalty, competence and commitment."

    A senior commander in Baghdad said last week that a request for 3,000 additional Iraqi troops couldn't be met because the soldiers didn't want to leave other parts of the country for the insurgent-ridden city.

    President George W. Bush has a choice to make, says Williams. Either set a date for an exit strategy and stick to it or increase the size of the regular army. Both come with obstacles; both present a dilemma. "Only the Sunnis want the U.S. out," she says. "The Shiites want the troops there as back-up and the Kurds want them for protection."

    But enlarging the army would be a hard sell to an increasingly skeptical U.S. public. "And it would take two years to ready recruits. If they'd done it three years ago, they'd have the size of army they need now."

    That would have required planning.

    "And plans rarely survive contact with the enemy," says security analyst John Pike. "We're at war with an adaptable, resourceful enemy. The army is going to be in the sandbox with it for some time to come."
    So what was that about a draft? The troop replacements are going to have to come from somewhere.
    I am from the American CIA and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you.

  2. #2
    Friend of Gossip Rocks! buttmunch's Avatar
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    Oct 2005


    Again, that's an open invitation at your house, right?

    The thing is that most Americans, no matter how they feel about the war, are not on with the idea of conscription, so my guess is they'll tread water until after the mid-terms, knowing that any repug who supports a draft will face voter anger and wanting to avoid that. The day after the mid-terms, head north for the border if you're a non-rich/non-connected white male between the ages of 18 and 35.
    'Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.' Ben Franklin

    "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."
    --Sinclair Lewis

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