Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

IRAQ WAR; Iraqi Competence

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

IRAQ WAR; Iraqi Competence

Article excerpt

Bing West, author, Vietnam veteran and former Defense Department official, has called the Iraq war on these pages a mystery novel in which the ending is not known.

It could also be called a horror movie.

Whatever analogy is used, there are still many more questions than answers. Here are a few of them with our thoughts:

SHORT OF TROOPS: Are 20,000 additional troops enough to stem violence in Baghdad?

According to the Army's counterinsurgency manual, as reported in USA Today, 20 soldiers for every 100,000 residents are needed.

That would mean about 120,000 troops in Baghdad alone. Thus, the extra troops may make only a temporary difference, clearing neighborhoods only to see insurgents return when U.S. troops leave.

The strategy of "clear and hold" has failed because there are not enough U.S. troops or trained Iraqis willing to hold areas. The enemy has time to spare to avoid frontal battles with the overwhelming force of the U.S. military.

"Commanders have had to play shell games with thinly stretched troops," The New York Times reported. Which leads to the next question.

ARREST-FREE ZONES: In The Wall Street Journal, West wrote that there are 75 murders a day in Baghdad, and most killers walk free. The ruling Shiite parties are holding back.

Fading public support: Can any war succeed when a majority of the citizens don't support it?

Scientific polls have consistently shown about two-thirds of the American people oppose sending more troops to Iraq. Clear evidence of success is needed, and soon.

IMPOSSIBLE SOLUTION: Can the Iraqi army, police and security forces become capable or will U.S. advisers be de facto leaders of troops without a clear chain of command?

Reports from the Iraq Study Group, the Pentagon and the Government Accountability Office say that Iraqi military and police have serious deficiencies. …

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