Army hit for lack of new ideas on Iraq Troop surge op­tions re­viewed for pres­i­dent

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By Rowan Scar­bor­ough

The U.S. Army is study­ing a num­ber of op­tions for surg­ing troops into Iraq if Pres­i­dent Bush picks that approach as his cen­ter­piece for a new war strat­egy, mil­i­tary of­fi­cials said on Dec. 28.

One of­fi­cial who was sent the brief­ing slides for var­i­ous surge op­tions said he was struck with the lack of new ideas af­ter an in­tense three-month re­view process inside the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion. “Some of this stuff is what the old Coali­tion Pro­vi­sional Author­ity looked at,” said the of­fi­cial, re­fer­ring to the U.S. gov­ern­ment or­ga­ni­za­tion that ran Iraq from 2003 to 2004.

There are now about 135,000 Amer­i­can forces in Iraq. Surge op­tions range from a brigade of some 5,000 sol­diers to as many as five brigades, or nearly 30,000 troops.

If Mr. Bush, who met at his Texas ranch with De­fense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates and other na­tional se­cu­rity ad­vis­ers on Dec. 28, chooses that op­tion, the main tar-

get would be to take con­trol of the cap­i­tal. Since last sum­mer, Bagh­dad has been the scene of killings by Shi’ite and Sunni death squads, and by al Qaeda. A build up of both Iraqi and Amer­i­can forces there this sum­mer did not achieve the de­sired re­duc­tion in vi­o­lence. Com­man­ders have said the next six months will be a crit­i­cal time: the vi­o­lence will ei­ther re­cede or Iraq will de­scend into civil war.

To surge by five brigades, the Army will have to keep some units in Iraq longer than their nor­mal 13-month de­ploy­ments, and ac­cel­er­ate the re­de­ploy­ment of brigades who al­ready have served there. The Army will also call up more re­serves and may tap forces sta­tioned in other over­seas re­gions, mil­i­tary of­fi­cials said.

“The Army has been look­ing at this for months,” said a sec­ond of­fi­cial. “[For­mer De­fense Sec­re­tary Don­ald H.] Rums­feld held a num­ber of brief­ings on, if we need more troops, how do we do it.”

Mr. Bush is said to be par­tic­u­larly im­pressed by a brief­ing he re- ceived at the White House Dec. 11 from re­tired Gen. John M. Keane, for­mer Army vice chief of staff. Gen. Keane ad­vo­cates a surge of troops for a sig­nif­i­cant pe­riod of time to se­cure Bagh­dad.

The Army has in­creased troops in Iraq in the past to im­prove se­cu­rity for last win­ter’s na­tional elec­tions and for the Bagh­dad of­fen­sive this sum­mer.

Of­fi­cials said Mr. Bush is also look­ing at an eco­nomic com­po­nent and may ask Congress to fund a new round of re­con­struc­tion projects. Of­fi­cials have men­tioned a fig­ure of $5 bil­lion. But they warn that start­ing more projects at a time of de­te­ri­o­rat­ing se­cu­rity will not work. Congress has ap­proved over $30 bil­lion in re­con­struc­tion and de­vel­op­ment money for Iraq.

An­other fac­tor is the state of Iraq’s new min­istries. Af­ter op­er­at­ing for nearly 30 years in Sad­dam Hus­sein’s top-down man­age­ment style, there is no sea­soned cadre of bu­reau­crats who know how to move the ma­chin­ery of gov­ern­ment to get things done.

As a re­sult, min­istries are fail­ing to spend bud­get funds on much-needed projects. “They have not yet learned how to make de­ci­sions and act on them,” said the first of­fi­cial.

Mr. Bush is weigh­ing scores of op­tions from a num­ber of sources, in­clud­ing the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, his com­man­ders in Iraq and re­tired of­fi­cers such as Gen. Keane. Also weigh­ing in was the 10-mem­ber Iraq Study Group, which rec­om­mended vir­tu­ally all com­bat units be out of Iraq by early 2008. The White House and the Joint Chiefs are de­scribed as cool to that idea.

The gov­ern­ment of Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter Nouri al-Ma­liki also has sub­mit­ted pro­pos­als for how the Iraqi Se­cu­rity Forces can take over more mis­sions, and do it faster.

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