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Troop Levels in Iraq Are Adequate

As the commander of the Allied forces in World War II, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower once said, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

That sums up some of what the United States has been dealing with in Iraq. We made numerous plans for that war. In the heat of battle, and in the peace afterwards, those plans have been adjusted.

But before we criticize the planning that took place before the war, let us look at the track record of many of today’s critics.

Before the war, television and op-ed pages were filled with

predictions the administration’s war plans did not allocate enough men for the war.

They confidently predicted we would face months of war, culminating in a horrific house-to-house battle for Baghdad, which would result in tens of thousands of civilian and military casualties. The oil fields would be set ablaze, and, finally, if we did win, the surviving Iraqis would face mass starvation and grinding poverty.

The result is quite different. Casualties were a fraction of those predicted. Markets are bustling in Iraq, mass graves are no longer being filled with the bodies of murdered Iraqis, and schools and hospitals are operating again. The oil fields were preserved from destruction and are producing at pre-war levels. The Iraqi infrastructure is also up and operating. The downside is that we are facing guerrilla-style attacks, suicide bombers and roadside bombs from the Baathist and Al Qaeda-related elements still in Iraq. A Shiite militia has caused problems in Najaf. We also had to deal with the un-American behavior of some military and civilian personnel at the Abu Ghraib prison.

Fallujah is relatively peaceful now that we are using many Iraqis in the patrolling efforts. In Najaf, Moktada al-Sadr’s Mehdi Army’s thugs are being killed by our soldiers and shunned or attacked by other Shiite Iraqis.

The other parts of Iraq, including the Kurdish north, are seldom mentioned in media accounts but they show increasing local democratic activity and economic health.

This means the question being asked about whether we have enough troops in Iraq might not even be the right question. We ought to be asking how are we doing, and the answer is: “We are doing well.” This statement is born out by the Iraqis, who recent polls have shown are, while not thrilled by the present state of affairs, see them as a big improvement over the days of Saddam Hussein. The polls also show they are hopeful about the future.

A certain sober optimism is also justified as we see the Iraqi people prepare to resume full sovereignty. Just as we are moving toward a handover of government power to the Iraqis, we are moving forward to handing over military and security control as well. The process of turning over military and security duties takes longer because of the time required to train capable professional military and police units.

Currently, the Iraqi Police Service has 92,227 men and women on duty or in training. Of this, almost a third of them have completed training.

The Iraqi army, which will need 35,000 men when it is up to strength, currently has 3,939 on duty, with another 2,763 in training. With the assistance of our military trainers, the Iraqis plan to have six to eight trained battalions by the end of the year. They will make a tremendous difference in establishing a safe and secure Iraq.

This points out the weakness of asking whether a certain number of troops in Iraq is “adequate.” As part of a 35-nation coalition, we are making gains in Iraq with the troops now on duty, and as time passes, the need for troops will change. First, the security situation in Iraq will change, due to several factors, including the activity of the Baathists and Al Qaeda sympathizers. The biggest change in demand for numbers of soldiers will come from the fact that month by month, Iraqis will assume increased duties in providing their own security.

I envision our military role changing from providing direct tactical combat troops to providing artillery, intelligence, and aviation assets.

Eventually, we will reduce our activities to providing military aid. In this, we would follow the model of post-World War II Greece, when Communists made a determined bid to seize control of that country in a bloody civil war. At first our troops were involved in direct combat.

Over time, we changed our participation to providing military aid. This is likely to prove the case in Iraq. As a sovereign nation, the Iraqis will provide their own security, as we would expect.

There is one step Congress might consider that could help strengthen the democratic process in the Iraqi army as well as improve its military techniques. The United States currently hosts the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, which trains officers and non-commissioned officers from nations all over Latin America. Over time, as more of its graduates have absorbed the American spirit of civilian control over their militaries, the governments of the region have become progressively more democratic and less prone to coups by juntas of military officers. The personal ties formed at the school have also helped us influence and maintain friendships with those nations.

This might be a good time to consider establishing a similar training facility for officers of Middle Eastern nations. This institute would be invaluable in helping create a democratic free and peaceful Middle East. I believe that the further we can move in that direction, the better it will be, not only for the people of the Middle East, but for the world as well.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) is chairman of the Armed Services subcommittee on personnel.

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