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We Need More Troops By: Barry R. McCaffrey
Wall Street Journal | Tuesday, July 29, 2003


We need to get out of denial and face reality if we expect to make rational and determined policy decisions on Iraq. It will take no less than two years of inspired leadership, courageous soldiering and $100 billion to put that nation back on its feet. Make no mistake, the air-ground-sea tactical victory by Gen. Tommy Franks's coalition forces was nothing less than brilliant. But to finish the job we need more U.S. combat forces on active duty to sustain the required force levels. We currently have 190,000 U.S. troops directly engaged in Iraq and Kuwait. Without the overall troop strength to support our Iraq, Afghanistan and Korea deployments, we risk breaking the back of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps in the coming 24 months.

Let's be clear here: Our troops' current morale is superb. Their courage in Afghanistan and Iraq was inspiring. Their dedication and tactical competence mark them as the most effective fighting force the world has ever seen. Innate respect for the law, self-discipline, tremendous initiative and sensitivity to protecting vulnerable civil populations characterizes our military culture. It took us 15 years after Vietnam to create this proud fighting force. We must be careful to preserve it while providing Gen. John Abizaid, the new commander of Centcom, the forces he needs to build the security required.

Right now, U.S. active and reserve force-structure of infantry, military police, civil affairs, special operations, aviation and field logistics formations are inadequate. Contractors and allies (now a tiny 7% of the coalition supporting the effort) can mitigate some of the burden in Iraq. And if everything goes to plan, an additional 40,000 allies, organized in three multinational divisions, will be on the ground in Iraq by September. But we should be skeptical about their military effectiveness, independent funding, and logistics support. The only long-term solution is to create a well-trained and -equipped Iraqi police, civil defense corps, border guards, army and contract security force. L. Paul Bremer, chief administrator, and Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of U.S. ground forces, are seized of this effort. We must see to it that they have the cash, equipment and training resources required for the mission.

Gen. Jack Keane, one of the most experienced and thoughtful Army officers we have, has laid out the global rotation plan for the near term. If you analyze the plan, the U.S. Army is very close to being overextended. The risk is too great. Our active strength of 491,000 is too small. Twenty-four of our 33 active brigades (73%) are deployed. Fifteen of our 45 National Guard battalions are deployed. Some 368,000 Army soldiers are deployed to 120 foreign nations. We are in a global war on terror with inadequate forces.

We must immediately call up nine National Guard Brigades (not just the two currently planned) and keep them permanently in the force structure, returning the Guard soldiers to civil life after 12-month tours. We should then sustain these additional units through active-duty recruiting. The current rate of return to active duty is far too high, and runs the risk of driving away our reserve component. About 22% of the 900,000 available Guard and Reserve forces of all services are now on temporary duty.

The U.S. is dealing with the consequences of success. Our resolve has made us immeasurably more secure since Sept. 11, 2001. Yet history will judge us on how well we sustain our accomplishments in Afghanistan and Iraq. Our war on terror has achieved great initial results. Now we must finish the difficult phase of ensuring the fruits of our victory.

Gen. McCaffrey, a professor of national security studies at West Point, led the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division in the 1991 Gulf War.



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