Force Size

BY Herschel Smith
8 years ago

Following the Small Wars Manual, I have argued before that force projection and timeliness are critical for counterinsurgency operations, and that constant and perpetual offensive operations against guerrilla fighers is the way to effect security and thus stabilize territory.  Protracted duration is the enemy of victory in war and a sure path to defeat.  The al Qaeda high command letter to Zarqawi frankly admitted that “prolonging the war is in our interest.”  My arguments have been directly contrary to the Generals who have argued for a small footprint, believing that most effective way to achieve security is to use the minimum number of troops.  It is possible that the Generals have confused large force projection with the actual implementation of force.  There are even Generals who want to jettison the “kill-kill ethos” of the Army and Marines.  Yet this is certainly not the case.  The larger the force size, the smaller the probability that force will have to be exercised.  The two have proven to be inversely proportional.

The boots know that there aren’t enough troops, and haven’t been from the beginning.  In recent action in Iraq, we see what can happen with enough troops, versus the carnage that can ensue when the U.S. is not present.

… members of the Army’s 172nd Stryker Brigade are on a charm offensive. The soldiers spent 12 months in the restive city of Mosul, before having their tour in Iraq extended to help in the U.S.’s campaign to pacify Baghdad. The unit’s experience shows. They are alert but relaxed, carrying themselves with a gentle posture, weapons down, waving to the locals, talking with them. Kids hold hands with the Americans; an Iraqi mother hands a soldier her baby to hold. Locals invite U.S. officers in to sit and have glasses upon glasses of tea, orange Fanta, Pepsi and Arabic coffee. They don’t go into a house without a few Iraqi soldiers who can better gauge if someone looks suspicious. Walking out of one Iraqi home, Lieut. Colonel John Norris, commander of the Stryker 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment Tomahawks, enjoys a moment of guarded optimism. “Days like this you think, wow, they can really do it. If they can just stop the killing.”

It’s the glimmers of hope that make the realities in Iraq so heartbreaking. Residents of Ur say that with the Strykers around, sectarian murders have all but disappeared. Neighbors emerge from their homes to chat and allow their sons and daughters to play in the street. But the Iraqis and Americans know that such sanity won’t last. Though 12,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops have moved to the capital to try to defuse sectarian violence, the level of killing across the city remains as high as ever. That’s because the U.S. doesn’t have enough troops to maintain the peace in the areas they’ve secured, instead relying on Iraqi units who have yet to prove they can impose order. In Ghazaliyah, a west Baghdad neighborhood the 172nd Strykers cleared weeks earlier, violence has already gone back up to previous levels. For all the progress made in Ur, the troops know the cycle is bound to repeat itself there too. “We leave,” says Sergeant First Class Joshua Brown, as his Stryker pulls out of Ur city, “and it turns into f—— Somalia.”

Commanders in Iraq have recently called for more troops, but will stop short of directly saying that these troops need to be U.S. rather than Iraqi troops.  As we have pointed out, Iraqi soldiers can sometimes hinder U.S. efforts.

There is a revised field manual soon to be issued, including reformulated counterinsurgency doctrine.  But is has been pointed out that the number of troops required to uphold this strategy are not there in Iraq, and are not coming.

  • http://editcopy.blogspot.com Chris

    I cannot imagine how difficult it is for those soldiers to leave an area they have done so much to (temporarily) restore.

  • Herschel Smith

    Chris, take a look at my most recent post. The forces are having to leave al Anbar to secure Baghdad. They are leaving behind the people whose confidence they are trying to win. Terrible.


You are currently reading "Force Size", entry #329 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Small Wars,War & Warfare and was published October 9th, 2006 by Herschel Smith.

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