In the Arena

Sounds About Right

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Lawrence Korb’s fascinating and depressing diary of a recent visit to Iraq, via Kevin Drum.

ps–I’ve been told by several Congressional sources that troops intended for Baghdad are being diverted to Diyala and other trouble spots…which makes the counterinsurgency plan even more difficult to implement in the capital.

From Reader Anonymous:

To clear up a few facts about the surge: The “surge” has not yet taken place, there are currently between 142,000 to 150,000 US troops in Iraq as compared to the 152,000 troops that were in Iraq in November of 2006. As of january 2007 troop levels had dropped to 132,000 in Iraq, the lowest since July, 2006 (127,000.) The surge of troops “will boost” back the total deployment to 162,000 by June 2007.

You’re absolutely right. But two points–(add:three, actually):
1. The nature of deployments changed when the counterinsurgency tactics were instituted in Baghdad. Instead of being based in large forward operating bases (FOBs), outside of Baghdad, troops were moved into Baghdad neighborhoods, which was a major augmentation of troop presence in the city–and part of the reason for the increased US casualties.

2. The so-called “surge” never came close to the classic 1 to 20 troop to civilian ratio recommended for counterinsurgency. The disparity was made worse by (a) the corruption and divided loyalties of the Iraqi police, (b) the ineptitude of the Iraqi military, (c) the fact that 2 of the 3 Iraqi brigades summoned to Baghdad to augment the force were Kurdish–non-Arabic speakers and now (d) the fact that at least one of the promised brigades have been diverted to Diyala. All of which makes a tough mission next-to-impossible.

3. The ultimate Iraq “surge” end strength is projected at 167,000, which won’t be enough–especially given the lack of readiness (especially when it comes to equipment), the newly extended tours and the fact that Guard and Reserve troops will be called back. This is an exhausted force. Morale will be a bitch. And for what? The damage to our military will be considerable. A disaster, any way you cut it.