Saturday, March 10, 2007

And "surge" goes on and on and on

You might remember George W Bush saying this exactly two months ago when he announced an escalation is US troops to the tune of 5 brigades, around 21,000 troops, most of them to be concentrated on the Baghdad area: (All emphasis mine)
Our past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principal reasons: There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents. And there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have. Our military commanders reviewed the new Iraqi plan to ensure that it addressed these mistakes. They report that it does. They also report that this plan can work.

Now let me explain the main elements of this effort: The Iraqi government will appoint a military commander and two deputy commanders for their capital. The Iraqi government will deploy Iraqi Army and National Police brigades across Baghdad's nine districts. When these forces are fully deployed, there will be 18 Iraqi Army and National Police brigades committed to this effort, along with local police. These Iraqi forces will operate from local police stations -- conducting patrols and setting up checkpoints, and going door-to-door to gain the trust of Baghdad residents.

This is a strong commitment. But for it to succeed, our commanders say the Iraqis will need our help. So America will change our strategy to help the Iraqis carry out their campaign to put down sectarian violence and bring security to the people of Baghdad. This will require increasing American force levels. So I've committed more than 20,000 additional American troops to Iraq. The vast majority of them -- five brigades -- will be deployed to Baghdad.
Not that there was much of a chance that any commitment would be held to 20,000 troops. In fact, when Bush made that speech, he rounded down from what was already known to be a 21,000 number. That's roughly a battalion, depending on the organization, that Bush did not mention to the American public and the world. Outside that speech the administration estimated the cost of a deployment would be about $3 billion. Supposedly that would take such an escalation through the summer of 2007, although Bush never did estimate the actual time involved.

Then, less than a month later, the Congressional Budget Office provided an analysis which produced a different set of figures. Via TPM Muckraker the CBO's analysis paints something of a different picture and points out that the troop increases Bush was announcing were combat troops only. Armies in the field, especially large armies, require a massive amount of support operations and infrastructure. Bush, apparently deliberately, left the increased numbers of support troops out of the announcement.
To reflect some of the uncertainty about the number of support troops, CBO developed its estimates on the basis of two alternative assumptions. In one scenario, CBO assumed that additional support troops would be deployed in the same proportion to combat troops that currently exists in Iraq. That approach would require about 28,000 support troops in addition to the 20,000 combat troops—a total of 48,000. CBO also presents an alternative scenario that would include a smaller number of support personnel—about 3,000 per combat brigade—totaling about 15,000 support personnel and bringing the total additional forces to about 35,000.
The CBO also pointed out that Bush and his administration had grossly underestimated the cost of his little venture. The $3 billion estimate for the combat troops alone fell short of the actual cost of about $5 billion for a four month increase. But we already know that there will be more than the original 20,000 and there is a good chance this escalation, if it doesn't become permanent, will be long and drawn out. When the CBO reworked the numbers, based on the cost of current operations, they came up with costs from $9 billion for a four month deployment to $49 billion for a 24 month deployment.

The Bush administration disagreed with the non-partisan CBO and said they didn't see any need for any additional support troops to accompany the additional combat brigades into Iraq.

Well, that's one helluva fancy miracle if you can pull it off. That's an instant reduction of a thing known as "tooth-to-tail" ratio. The tooth being the actual fighter and the tail comprising the support soldier. The truth is, as the modern combat soldier becomes more efficient, the support functions to keep a soldier that way grow. The "tail" is an integral part of any combat force and it cannot easily be dispensed with. It would not be incorrect to say, it cannot be dispensed with at all.

But the Bush administration insisted that 21,500 troops was the limit of the escalation. (Notice the numbers from Bush's original 20,000. That's a reinforced infantry battalion or maybe a headquarters group, but it's 1,500 higher than Bush's 10 January announcement.)

Then, yesterday, this appeared:
President Bush's troop buildup in Baghdad apparently will be bigger and more costly - and perhaps last longer - than it seemed when he unveiled the plan in January as the centerpiece of a new Iraq strategy.U.S. officials say it's too early to tell whether the troop reinforcements will succeed in containing the sectarian and insurgent violence, but it looks as though the Pentagon is preparing for an expanded commitment - assuming that by summer there are solid signs that the extra effort is yielding significant results.The Bush plan called for sending 21,500 extra U.S. combat troops to Iraq - mainly to Baghdad - with the last of five brigades arriving by June. The estimated price tag was $5.6 billion. Officials have refused to say exactly how long it would last, but Defense Secretary Robert Gates had suggested that it could be over by fall.
Aside from the fact that the original price tag and troop numbers have crept up, the last of the brigades arriving later than originally forecast, because they simply weren't ready, in exactly two months Bush's plan has been challenged, troop levels questioned and skeptics proven correct.
The total number of troops required for the plan, while still uncertain, is climbing. When Bush announced the boost of 21,500 combat troops, the Pentagon said still others would be required to go with them in support roles. Its initial estimate of 2,400 support troops has doubled and may go higher still. The cost also is rising. Administration officials conferred with lawmakers this week about an extra $1 billion, on top of the original $5.6 billion. The actual cost depends on how long the troop reinforcement is sustained. When asked about the duration of the buildup, Gates has noted that funds for this purpose are only budgeted through September, which marks the end of the government's budget year. This week, however, it was disclosed that Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, a top commander in Iraq, has recommended that the buildup stretch into 2008. At a news conference Thursday, Gen. David Petraeus, who arrived in Baghdad in February as the top U.S. commander, hinted at a longer-term buildup. ``You generally think that if you're going to achieve (the desired results), that it would need to be sustained certainly for some time well beyond summer,'' he said, adding that his subordinate commanders are looking at options well in advance of when decisions will have to be made.

So, the four month, 20,000 troops, $5.6 billion (orignally forecast as $3 billion) "surge" is already going sideways. It's going to be way bigger, way more expensive and a lot longer than Bush announced and alluded to just two months ago.
In addition, Gates said Wednesday that at least another 2,400 would be needed to support the extra combat forces. And he said Petraeus had added still another requirement - about 2,200 more military police to help with an anticipated increase in detainees and for other duties.

Also, it was decided last month that an additional division headquarters - 1,000 soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Ga., - should go in March to split Baghdad command and control duties with the 1st Cavalry Division headquarters. The 3rd Infantry headquarters was originally scheduled to go this summer.

Maj. Gen. Joseph Fil Jr., commander of the 1st Cavalry, said Feb. 16 he has requested additional attack helicopters, and Gates said Wednesday that other unspecified requests for extra troops were being studied at the Pentagon.

Gordon England, the deputy defense secretary, told Congress this week that the total number of support troops could approach 7,000.

And, just when you thought somebody had to have done some serious planning, there's this little kicker.
Stephen Hadley, the president's national security adviser, told reporters Thursday that it should be no surprise that the initial estimates of how many troops would be required for the Baghdad security plan would have to be adjusted.

``As you get into the execution of the plan you learn a lot, conditions change and you make adjustments, and that's what we're going to be doing,'' Hadley said.

This was the thoroughly reviewed plan which Bush announced two months ago. So, Hadley is quite right. It's no surprise. If it comes out of the Bush administration it is, in all probability totally screwed up and festooned with lies.

Of course, it could all be moot because the required troops just aren't there.
Military leaders are struggling to choose Army units to stay in Iraq and Afghanistan longer or go there earlier than planned, but five years of war have made fresh troops harder to find.

Faced with a military buildup in Iraq that could drag into next year, Pentagon officials are trying to identify enough units to keep up to 20 brigade combat teams in Iraq. A brigade usually has about 3,500 troops.

The likely result will be extending the deployments of brigades scheduled to come home at the end of the summer, and sending others earlier than scheduled.


Maintaining increased troop levels, said military officials, will require troops to return for what could be their second or third tours in Iraq or Afghanistan, and force military leaders to juggle the schedules to give soldiers a full 12 months at home before returning to battle. [...] The complex scheduling must identify which units would have been home for 12 months and be trained and ready to go, plus whether the needed equipment would be available and what impact a schedule change has on other plans for the equipment or troops months down the road.

Combat troops, meanwhile, are coming to realize that the Pentagon can't fulfill its commitment to give soldiers two years at home for every year they spend deployed.

Catch that? The Pentagon, which had always said the "dwell time" for rotating troops would be 24 months. Now they're scrambling to try and make it twelve.

That twelve months isn't a couple of hundred days sitting around relaxing with family either. Every unit that deploys to Iraq or Afghanistan has to be trained and worked-up. From the start of the process, particularly if there has been a large turnover of personnel, that could mean six months of intensive training.

That's not a rest. It's destructive.

Bush is accomplishing something, but it's not likely people will think well of it. Along with destroying Iraq and leaving Afghanistan in a state of total chaos, he is systematically killing the US military.

No comments: