Monday, November 20, 2006

Iraq: Pace Goes Long For Lack of Troops

The all-military study group on Iraq led by JCS Chairman Gen. Pace has moved quicker than appeared in last week's news (post on the Pace study) says today's Washington Post in the wrongly entitled "Pentagon May Suggest Short Term Build-Up Leading To Iraq Exit":

The military's study, commissioned by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Peter Pace, comes at a time when escalating violence is causing Iraq policy to be reconsidered by both the White House and the congressionally chartered, bipartisan Iraq Study Group. Pace's effort will feed into the White House review, but military officials have made it clear they are operating independently. The Pentagon group's proceedings are so secret that officials asked to help it have not even been told its title or mandate. But in recent days the circle of those with knowledge of its deliberations has widened beyond a narrow group working for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (...)

The Pentagon's closely guarded review of how to improve the situation in Iraq has outlined three basic options: Send in more troops, shrink the force but stay longer, or pull out, according to senior defense officials. Insiders have dubbed the options "Go Big," "Go Long" and "Go Home." The group conducting the review is likely to recommend a combination of a small, short-term increase in U.S. troops and a long-term commitment to stepped-up training and advising of Iraqi forces, the officials said.

The trouble with the proposed solution is that the "go Big" option is deselection not because it is not thought effective, but because there are not a sufficient number of troops. The situation is basically that the number of troops needed closely resembles those proposed by Gen. Zinni and Gen. Shinseki early on, and which e.g. Quinlivan's estimations* would call for:
"Go Big," the first option, originally contemplated a large increase in U.S. troops in Iraq to try to break the cycle of sectarian and insurgent violence. A classic counterinsurgency campaign, though, would require several hundred thousand additional U.S. and Iraqi soldiers as well as heavily armed Iraqi police. That option has been all but rejected by the study group, which concluded that there are not enough troops in the U.S. military and not enough effective Iraqi forces, said sources who have been informally briefed on the review.
Since "Go Home" would probably have clearly short and long-term consequences, the middle option -- as always, when anyone presentsyou with three alternatives -- seems to be the order of the day. The study group apparently wants to increase the trooplevel upfront for then to scale a bit back while still staying: "Go Big but Short While Transitioning to Go Long" is the not-so-elegant shorthand for staying the course with few alterations in troop size. The crucial question is whether the group has gathered and decided on any specific and innovative operational designs -- that may mean better outcomes for the same money or footprint? The planners seem to have understood that Iraq will take at least as long as the Balkans (and that is given a positive scenario):
Another potential obstacle to the "Go Long" option is that it runs counter to the impulse of many congressional Democrats to find a way to get out of Iraq quickly. Planners envision taking five to 10 more years to create a stable and competent Iraqi army. Because it wouldn't lead to a swift exit, some Democrats could criticize this option as a disguised version of "staying the course."

On the other hand, the hybrid version of "Go Long" may be remarkably close to the recommendation that the Iraq Study Group, led by former secretary of state James A. Baker III and former representative Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.). That group's findings, expected to be issued next month, are said to focus on changing the emphasis of U.S. military operations from combating the insurgency to training Iraqis, and also to find ways to increase security in Baghdad and bring neighboring countries into talks about stabilizing Iraq.

Interesting to note the agenda setting tactics of Pace group -- probably in the light of the attention given to Baker's ISG. And of course that they seem to wind up with pretty comparable solutions in terms of grand design. Hopefully this means the Democrats will cool off the get out instincts.

"Force Requirements in Stability Operations", Parameters, 1995.

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