Saturday, October 22, 2005

Troop rotation and progress questioned 
This commenter raises an entirely valid criticism: If we've stood up 116 Iraqi battalions, then how come the demand for U.S. battalions hasn't appreciably decreased?

I am pleased that the LT reports his unit is having success training the Iraqis.

Still, I am forced to balance that report with this one:

That one tells me that there are now 116 Iraqi ground combat battalions of various states of readiness in operation today. That's a sizeable increase in combat power over the last year and looks like good news.

But - the introduction of those 116 units has not reduced the demand for U.S. ground combat battalions by 1. Indeed, we had to increase our presence to secure the vote last week.

Additionally, enemy OPTEMPO, as measured by number of attacks per week, has increased over the last year.

So I appreciate the LTs service. And I know he believes in what he's doing. But I have trouble reconciling his account with the DoD report and measures of effectiveness you might think would apply.

Oh - and as much as I'd rather not link to the NY Times, there is this: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/22/international/middleeast/22baghdad.html

The answer is above my pay grade, but when has that ever shut me up before?

But one possible answer is to look at the optempo of U.S. units and what duties they are performing. Are Iraqi companies and battalions able to operate in their own cities? Have we been successful in pulling back the profile of U.S. troops in quieter cities?

My sense is that we have, indeed. The Iraqi election security operation was an Iraqi show. Iraqis are now the main effort.

So what's the effect on the battlefield?

Well, U.S. forces are free to concentrate elsewhere and conduct brigade sized operations out West.

Bringing soldiers home doesn't bring victory. Clobbering the enemy where he lives brings victory. The correct way to view the operational picture MAY be along these lines:

The build-up of Iraqi units is not designed, at this point, to bring U.S. units home early. The build-up of Iraqi units is designed to enable Americans to conduct economy of force operations in quieter areas, so we can concentrate on more decisive actions with a focus on a logistical strategy, targeting the enemy's base, rather than on an attrition fight scattered all around Iraq.

The next thing to look at is to define "levels of readiness." An Iraqi battalion may be quite competent at conducting patrolling and security operations at platoon level, but not be ready to conduct more complex operations, such as a raid and deliberate attack, at the company level, much less at the battalion level.

To maintain this capability, you must retain some U.S. presence in a region, sufficiently near to reach out and kill someone when information presents itself. I'm talking, to have boots charging through the door within an hour of confirming the information. Anything slower is too perishable.

American forces are less likely to be infiltrated.

Further, while there may be several competent Iraqi battalions, there are few, if any, truly competent separate brigades, able to operate independently.

Americans don't rotate maneuver battalions. Americans rotate maneuver brigades. The brigade is the lowest echelon capable of operating independently, and of sustaining itself in the field.

Lots of Iraqi battalions don't replace a single coherent brigade. And it is not until the Iraqis can operate in brigade strength independently, anywhere in the country, that we should expect any significant reductions in U.S. maneuver battalions.

Rather, we're seeing Iraqi companies attached to U.S battalions, and Iraqi battalions attached to U.S. brigades. If anything, this INCREASES rather than decreases the level of U.S. troops required at brigade and division level, because the support battalions need to cough up more slice elements to support the transportation, maintenance, medical, and recovery needs of the Iraqi battalions.

So it ain't just a matter of a one-for-one swap of American battalions for Iraqi battalions. When you actually have mouths to feed, things to break, and people to kill, it's much more involved than that.

Anybody with experience at Brigade level and higher feel free to weigh in here.

Splash, out



Your point about brigades is exactly right. Stand by for a link to Ike Skelton's recent letter on that point as soon as it's public.

And I think you're right about the reallocation of U.S. forces elsewhere in Iraq.

But, what that tells us about the security situation is that it is able to absorb combat power as fast as we can manufacture it and the enemy is still able to increase his output, not just in terms of lethality but also in terms of rate.

The other question I like to tease myself with, is that if we're partnering X U.S. units with Y Iraqi units, and we are unable to graduate Iraqi units to Level 1, where partnership is not required, is there a time when the production of new Iraqi units will outpace our ability to _properly_ partner them with the finite number of U.S. units committed?

Mark Lewis
"and we are unable to graduate Iraqi units to Level 1"

Where is that intel from Mark? Just curious. I've read the CENTCOM reports and I've heard directly from those that are doing the training. In the last three months there have been 6 IA BNs stand alone that I know of. Approx. six months per? That's a pretty good rate. Yes, it is not as fast as training a US BN but then you cannot make that comparison anyway. Seems acceptable to me plus the US units simply rotate to another IA BN same as a training BN here stateside. I'm just curious as to why you feel we cannot get the job done.
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