Tuesday, February 15, 2005

An Event Table not a Timetable

Some are calling for the Administration to publish a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. The Administration is politely declining to do so.

And so why not?

Any timetable assumes that specific events will happen before any point on the timetable. If the table is published all those who disagree, especially the insurgents, can plan their activities to ensure that the required events cannot happen on time. Even if militarily insignificant every failure to meet the table is a political and psychological defeat. All guerrilla wars are highly influenced by political and psychological factors. Announcing a timetable is a set up for embarrassment at least.

But doesn’t there have to be some sort of basis for planning?

Well yes, but a published timetable is not it. The proper way is to have a table of the desired events. This would underlie a timetable any way, but if the events move forward or backward, or are out of sequence we are not trapped by an artificial artifact.

The officially stated events are along the lines of “as long as it takes for the Iraqi’s to provide their own security and establish a democratic government." In all probability the newly elected Iraqi parliament will have something, if not quite kosher, that looks enough like a democracy that the establishment of a democracy can be announced in late 2005 or 06.

The Army Times is a privately published weekly with this week’s news of the Army. The Army’s “home town” newspaper. It often take the military brass and political leadership to task especially in situations effecting the rights of the ordinary solider. It also serves as the voice of the Army leadership when they want to say something unofficial, such as the frequent complaints on the Secretary of Defense policies, or tell the soldiers something that shouldn’t be announced in a press conference.

This week’s dead tree version carries the headline. “Your ‘Ticket Out of Iraq’ - 15,000 troops whose tours were extended are coming home – How fast can the Iraqi soldiers take over for the rest?” There is a four-page spread on different units and experiences in training Iraqi units. The Iraqi units involved are paired with US units. The message is clear “’get these guys trained!’ so we can come home and stay there.”

So how is this going? The Iraqi troops in the articles were “not up to US Army standards” but getting better. The US trainers had good relationships with the Iraqi’s and were confident in their success. The best overall source is from Global Security here and here. It appears that progress is being made - slowly.

An article (link lost) I read a few days ago many dealt with leader training. The Iraqi’s were interested in taking in all the knowledge they could. The old Iraqi army consisted of a lot of British form and Soviet tactics. They want to learn to fight “like American’s” so they can take over the defense of the their country. The American’s were pointing out every instance in the 1991 and 2003 wars where the Iraqi’s did well to provide the Iraqi’s with confidence. This is not as hard as the press might lead one to believe, the ground force technology difference was not that large, but there were many problems from the way Sadam mismanaged Iraq that prevented the effective use of the Iraqi Army. An unstated conclusion I got from the article is that when the Iraq’s feel they can take over we better be holding a farewell party and getting on the planes. It will be a much better army that “fights like Americans.”

The US Army allots five to six months to train a battalion of initial training graduates into a combat battalion. The Iraqi Army is conducting initial training in units so under optimum conditions it should take 9 to 10 months to train a unit. From the Global security data it looks like significant numbers of Iraqi units will be available starting in late 2005, so even if there is no reduction in the insurgency level the number of US Units should start to decrease.

With the new Constitution in place at about that time the events for major withdrawals should happen in 2006.

But there are only a thousand and one things that can go wrong with trying to attach these events to a firm timetable. The admistration will not annouce any date in advance it can avoid.

Update. 2/22/05

Phil Carter has a link and analysis on training Iraqi irregulars. I agree with Phil this will likely be much more effective.

Interesting quote from Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, who is overseeing the massive U.S. effort to help train and equip Iraqi military units. "To be candid, I would err on the side of fostering initiative. I want to get the hell out of here."

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