Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The (Very) Thin Green Line

The Army is stretched so thin by frequent troop rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan that it could snap unless relief comes soon, according to a Pentagon study.

Andrew Krepinevich, a retired Army officer who wrote the report, concluded that the Army cannot sustain the pace of troop deployments to Iraq long enough to break the back of the insurgency. He also suggested that the Pentagon's decision to begin reducing the number of troops in Iraq later this year was driven in part by a realization that the Army was overextended.

As evidence, Krepinevich points to the Army's 2005 recruiting slump — missing its recruiting goal for the first time since 1999 — and its decision to offer much bigger enlistment bonuses and other incentives.

"You really begin to wonder just how much stress and strain there is on the Army, how much longer it can continue," he said in an interview with the Associated Press. He added that the Army is still a highly effective fighting force and is implementing a plan that will expand the number of combat brigades available for rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Krepinevich wrote that the Army is "in a race against time" to adjust to the demands of war "or risk 'breaking' the force in the form of a catastrophic decline" in recruitment and re-enlistment.

Col. Lewis Boone, spokesman for Army Forces Command, which is responsible for providing troops to war commanders, pissed on the report and said his organization has been able to fulfill every request for troops that it has received from field commanders.

The report mirrors comments made by U.S. Rep. John Murtha, who said on December 1 that the war in Iraq has left the U.S. Army "broken, worn out" and "living hand-to-mouth."

Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat, 37-year Marine Corps career officer and Vietnam veteran, touched off a political firestorm in November when he called for an immediate troop withdrawal from Iraq.

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Meanwhile, Noah Shachtman over at has been keeping up with the inevitable leaks of the Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review, and he's troubled by what he sees:

My quick, subject-to-instant-revision first impression: Rumsfeld & Co. are focusing more on China than they are on Osama.

. . . Terrorist-type threats will get some new attention. But the Defense Department isn’t about to optimize for that threat, the way it did for the Soviet Union. Big money will continue to be spent on fighter jets designed to duel with the Soviets and destroyers designed for large-scale ground assaults. Grunts on the ground won’t get much more than they do now. The war on terror may be “long.” But, apparently, it’s not important enough to make really big shifts.

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