At the end of its first twelve months in Iraq the Army began to confront the fact that it had suffered its first significant setback since the Vietnam War: The security situation had worsened, essential services were still not restored, and Iraqi faith in the American occupiers was dwindling. . . . The Army had little to show for its time in Iraq since the fall of Baghdad but eight hundred dead and five thousand wounded. It was a shaken institution, losing good people and provoking others to question it as it hadn't been in decades. . . .
Special Forces troops were leading indicators of the problem the U.S. military faced.
Better educated than most soldiers and trained to be culturally sensitive, SF soldiers were among the first to speak out and criticize the approach the military was taking. [Captain Oscar] Estrada was typical of Army Special Forces officers in believe that the U.S. military still could prevail in Iraq, but only if it radically altered its approach. "I think we need to pull back," Estrada said. "Not pull out, but find a way to stop feeding the insurgency. Our presence there is feeding the fire." Like many others in Special Forces, he recommended revising the U.S. military presence to make it look more like the one in Afghanistan, where conventional troops are largely kept out of sight, and whether the U.S. bases around the country are small facilities manned by Special Forces troops.
© 2006, Thomas E. Ricks. All rights reserved.
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