Soldiers: More Troops Are A Lost Cause

February 4th, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: Soldiers: More Troops Are A Lost Cause

Miami Herald
February 4, 2007
Soldiers who are serving in Iraq already disagreed with President Bush and military officials, who say sending more troops will win the war.
By Tom Lasseter, McClatchy News Service
BAGHDAD - Army 1st Lt. Antonio Hardy took a slow look around the east Baghdad neighborhood that he and his men were patrolling. He grimaced at the sound of gunshots in the distance.
A machine gunner on top of a Humvee scanned the rooftops for snipers. Some of Hardy's men wondered aloud if they would get hit by a roadside bomb on the way back to their base.
''To be honest, it's going to be like this for a long time to come, no matter what we do,'' said Hardy, 25, of Atlanta. ``I think some people in America don't want to know about all this violence, about all the killings. The people back home are shielded from it; they get it sugar-coated.''
While senior military officials and the Bush administration say the president's decision to send more American troops to pacify Baghdad will succeed, many of the soldiers who are already there say it's a lost cause.
No change overnight
''What is victory supposed to look like? Every time we turn around and go in a new area there's somebody new waiting to kill us,'' said Sgt. 1st Class Herbert Gill, 29, of Pulaski, Tenn., as his Humvee rumbled down a dark Baghdad highway one evening last week. ``Sunnis and Shiites have been fighting for thousands of years, and we're not going to change that overnight.''
''Once more raids start happening, [insurgents will] melt away,'' said Gill, who serves with the 1st Infantry Division in east Baghdad. ``And then two or three months later, when we leave and say it was a success, they'll come back.''
Soldiers interviewed across east Baghdad, home to more than half of the city's eight million people, said the violence is so out of control that while a surge of 21,500 more American troops may suppress it momentarily, the notion that U.S. forces can bring lasting security to Iraq is misguided.
Soldiers such as Hardy must contend not only with an escalating civil war between Iraq's Sunni and Shiite Muslims, but also with insurgents on both sides who target U.S. forces.
''We can go get into a firefight and empty out ammo, but it doesn't accomplish much,'' said Pvt. 1st Class Zach Clouser, 19, of York, Pa. ``This isn't our war -- we're just in the middle.''
Almost every foot soldier interviewed during a week of patrols on the streets and alleys of east Baghdad said that Bush's plan would halt the bloodshed only temporarily. The soldiers cited a variety of reasons, including incompetence or corruption among Iraqi troops, the complexities of Iraq's sectarian violence and the lack of Iraqi public support, a cornerstone of counterinsurgency warfare.
''They can keep sending more and more troops over here, but until the people here start working with us, it's not going to change,'' said Sgt. Chance Oswalt, 22, of Tulsa, Okla.
Bush's initiative calls for American soldiers in Baghdad to take positions in outposts throughout the capital, paired up with Iraqi police and soldiers. Few of the U.S. soldiers interviewed, however, said they think Iraqi forces can operate effectively without American help.
Their officers were more optimistic.
If there's enough progress during the next four to six months, ''we can look at doing provincial Iraqi control, and we can move U.S. forces to the edge of the city,'' said Lt. Col. Dean Dunham, the deputy commander of the 2nd Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade, which oversees most of east Baghdad.
Maj. Christopher Wendland, a senior staff officer for Dunham's brigade, said he thinks there's a good chance that by late 2007 U.S. troops will have handed over most of Baghdad to Iraqi troops.
''I'm actually really positive,'' said Wendland, 35, of Chicago. ``We have an Iraqi army that's actually capable of maintaining once we leave.''
If the Iraqi army can control the violence, his thinking goes, economic and political progress will follow in the safest areas, accompanied by infrastructure improvement, then spread outward.
In counterinsurgency circles, that notion is commonly called the ''inkblot'' approach. It's been relatively successful in some isolated parts of Iraq, such as Tal Afar on the Syrian border, but in most areas it's failed to halt the bloodshed for any length of time.
Leaning against a pile of sandbags last week, 1st Lt. Tim Evers took a drag from his Marlboro cigarette. He said that while sending more troops sounded good, Sunni and Shiite fighters would only move out of Baghdad, fight elsewhere and wait until they can reenter the capital.
Evers' men were part of the last U.S. effort to subdue Baghdad, Operation Forward Together, which included Iraqi and American soldiers. It lasted most of last summer and ended in failure.
No security
'When we first got here it was, `Let's put up schools, let's work on a power plant' -- but you can't do that without security, and security here is crap,'' said Evers, 26, of Stockton, Calif. ``They keep trying different crap and it doesn't work. . . . They're talking about the inkblot method, and doing that you secure a small area, but the rest is still bad.''
The problem, many soldiers say, is that as long as the majority of Iraqis oppose the presence of American troops, a trend that's only accelerated since the 2003 invasion, no amount of bullets or bodies will solve the problem.
That's a bitter truth for Sgt. Chance Oswalt and many others on the streets of Baghdad.
Oswalt somberly named two men in his company who fought in Fallujah in November 2004, in the most intense urban combat since Vietnam, only to be killed in Baghdad late last year.

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