Herschel Smith is frustrated:
It is a remarkable thing to witness a general say that a particular province is “not under control” three and a half years into the war effort, and then to demur to the “more critical” city of Baghdad, presumably because it is the seat of government in Iraq. The point is that this question – and its remarkable answer – would never have been salient with the right number of troops. Said another way, only a lack of troop presence causes the need to shift resources from one location to another, while leaving the one to suffer and descend into anarchy. Is this clear enough?
…Finally, there is more to the concept of force projection than number of troops. Proper force projection also has to do with how the troops are used, i.e., their mission. I have previously noted that the Marines in the Anbar Province feel hamstrung by the rules of engagement, which have evolved over the war in Iraq. Further, having a troop presence, even with robust rules of engagement, is not the same thing as utilizing them. Camp Fallujah has at the present around 10,000 troops resident. Of those troops in the area, only 300 currently have a continual presence in Fallujah-proper, a city of 300,000. Note that this is a ratio 1000:1 Iraqis to Marines.
As Marines in Iraq expand into more advisory roles to Iraqi troops, the insurgency, by the use of criminal techniques, has become financially self-sufficient. The violence has not abated, there are daily retaliatory attacks by Sunni and Shia, and there is talk of civil war in Iraq. U.S. troops face the daily threat of sniper attacks, and the U.S. casualty rate in Iraq has a positive slope line. At least in part, these are the consequences of inadequate force projection.
It seems some are in agreement:
A newly updated classified Marine assessment by Col. Peter Devlin showed the complexity of the problem in its detailed look at Sunni-dominated Anbar province, where fighting in towns such as Fallujah and Ramadi has been among the most intense in the country. The memo concluded that al-Qaeda in Iraq, a group affiliated with Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network, is now the “dominant organization of influence” among the province’s 1.25 million people, and that a military or political defeat of the group was unlikely without a huge influx of troops and financial aid.
But as Herschel notes just sending troops and money won’t get the job done. They need the political backing, strategic decision-making, and rules of engagement that will allow them to get the job done.