Pulling Out Combat Troops Would Still Leave Most Forces In Iraq

December 10th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Pulling Out Combat Troops Would Still Leave Most Forces In Iraq

New York Times
December 10, 2006
Pg. 18
By Thom Shanker
WASHINGTON, Dec. 9 — Frontline combat troops in the 15 brigades carrying out the American fight in Iraq — which the Iraq Study Group says could be largely withdrawn in just over a year — represent about 23 percent of the 140,000 military personnel committed to the overall war effort there.
On any given day, according to military officers in Baghdad, only about 11 percent of the Army and Marine Corps personnel in Iraq are carrying out purely offensive operations. Even counting others, whose main job is defensive or who perform security missions to stabilize the country for economic reconstruction and political development, only half of the American force might be considered combat troops.
Even if all of the group’s proposals were carried out, it is not possible to predict exactly how many Americans will stay, or for how long. Decisions will hinge on military conditions on the ground and political conditions in Washington.
But an analysis of the current numbers and tasks of American forces suggests that it will prove difficult to drop far below 100,000 by early 2008, and that 70,000 or more troops might have to stay for a considerable time.
The bipartisan report, which acknowledged that a sustained and “considerable” troop presence would be necessary, called urgently for increasing the 4,000 American trainers now with Iraqis to as many as 20,000. That shift has been endorsed in general terms by President Bush. And commanders in Iraq, on their own accord, are already moving troops from their combat ranks to the training teams. So members of American brigade combat teams will stay for some time, in any case.
Americans assigned to join Iraqi units as advisers and trainers — fighting alongside the Iraqis when necessary, with other combat forces on call in case of emergency — must be backed up by the full array of drivers, cooks, guards, planners, intelligence analysts, communications teams, helicopter crews, mechanics and medical units without which no military operation can be mounted. And as long as the violence in Iraq persists, they must be protected from attack.
According to Pentagon statistics, about 23 percent of the troops currently assigned to the Iraq mission conduct primarily combat jobs. The 15 combat brigades — each with an official roster of about 3,500 and totaling about 52,500 soldiers and marines in Iraq — make up well over a third of the overall force. But each brigade includes units that provide support, logistics and security for those troops conducting direct combat operations.
Electricians and mechanics make up 20 percent of the overall American mission, with “functional support/administrative” personnel and “service and supply handlers” each contributing another 11 percent, according to Pentagon personnel statistics.
Other major categories include communications and intelligence troops — 8 percent — and health service providers, including such critical missions as medical evacuation teams, at 4 percent of the force. Craftsmen account for just under 4 percent. Those statistics do not includes their officers.
These statistics were drawn from an unclassified Pentagon report dated Sept. 30, 2006, which listed American deployments in the Middle East to carry out and support what the Pentagon classifies as “The Global War on Terror.” Three senior officers who served yearlong deployments in Iraq at the headquarters level reviewed the Pentagon statistics on regional deployments and said they provide an accurate if somewhat rough picture of how American troops are assigned military tasks in Iraq today.
But that is just one set of statistics describing troop deployments. Those statistics listing official military occupations in the region do not tell the full story of how the force deployed on the ground carries out the mission each day, according to officers in Baghdad.
Lt. Col. Michelle L. Martin-Hing, spokeswoman for the Multinational Corps-Iraq, offered different statistics that show that during day-to-day operations, about 40 percent of the troops conduct combat missions while about 60 percent carry out support missions.
She provided statistics compiled by the military’s operational headquarters in Iraq that list 11 percent of the force as assigned to offensive operations on any given day, and another 22 percent of the troops assigned to force protection and another 22 percent to security operations. About 35 percent carry out tasks that sustain the mission.
Iraqi security forces are not able to gather and analyze sufficient intelligence to carry out all of their missions, nor even to plan them. Likewise, the Iraqis do not have the infrastructure to buy, transport and distribute all of the ammunition, food and fuel that those indigenous forces require, nor to maintain all of their equipment.
Those logistical tasks fall to Americans, and, given the time it will take to build up Iraq’s capabilities, are likely to continue to for years to come, even long after the Baghdad government has assumed full military command.
The Iraq mission is not especially top-heavy, according to Pentagon statistics. Generals and their executive staffs amount to one-tenth of one percent of the force.
Other categories in the Pentagon personnel statistics include tactical operations officers, at 6 percent; engineering and maintenance officers, at 2 percent; supply and procurement officers, at 1.7 percent; and health care officers, at 1.5 percent.
Despite increased agility and speed in how it carries out its combat operations, the American military’s ratio of combat to support troops has remained in Iraq at levels seen throughout modern history, mostly because the insurgency eliminated the concept of safe and comfortable rear areas that existed in previous wars, making every supply and planning and convoy job more difficult and dangerous.
Andrew F. Krepinevich Jr., executive director of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments here, said militaries traditionally require three to five soldiers to support every fighter, and in the case of Iraq some of that support is elsewhere in the Persian Gulf region.
“In the time of Alexander the Great, everyone on the battlefield carried a spear,” Mr. Krepinevich said. “But over the great sweep of history, the tail has increased faster than the tooth.” In America’s most recent sus

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