COSTLY TROOP DEFICIT IN IRAQ
Editorial de “The New York Times” del 22/11/2004
Por su interés y relevancia, he seleccionado el editorial que sigue para incluirlo en este sitio web. (L. B.-B.)
The swift and stunning American military sweep through Falluja this month recalls the equally swift and stunning sweep through Baghdad and other Iraqi cities some 20 months ago. Those triumphs quickly turned sour when looting and lawlessness took over the thinly patrolled streets, embittering residents, stalling reconstruction and giving the insurgency a jump-start on the occupation authorities. The sequel needs to be different. That will require a rapid reinforcement of American ground troops in Iraq. About 20,000 to 40,000 more soldiers are needed right away.
As Marine and Army units were completing their drive through Falluja, senior Marine intelligence officers based in the area warned that unless large American forces stayed behind to protect voter registration, reconstruction and the training of future Iraqi police officers, the insurgency could bounce back, expand in numbers and disrupt the elections now scheduled for Jan. 30. Their concerns, reported in The Times by Eric Schmitt and Robert F. Worth, were quickly played down as a "worst-case assessment'' by the Army's intelligence chief in Iraq. Still, military commanders recognize that they need to keep at a minimum several thousand American troops in and around Falluja. Unless those numbers are high enough, what happened last year in Baghdad and other cities could be repeated in Falluja, torpedoing the elections, and with them the only visible hope for Iraqi political revival and American military withdrawal. But those commanders are also under great pressure to move as many of these troops as possible to other cities where the insurgency has recently flared.
One big reason that last year's "mission accomplished'' started to look like "mission impossible'' was that Pentagon planners provided only enough troops to defeat Saddam Hussein's crumbling armies and not enough to provide security for physical and political reconstruction. Large swaths of a country used to strong governance suddenly had no effective governance and insurgent militias surged forth to fill the gap. Over time, the insurgency established bases in Sunni Arab cities like Falluja, where nostalgia for the Sunni-oriented Baathist dictatorship has been greatest and support for the Shiite-led interim government remains virtually nonexistent.
With the insurgents now driven out of Falluja, the city's nearly 's 300,000 inhabitants have begun streaming back into a smoldering ruin. Before the battle, water supplies were contaminated and electricity at best intermittent. Now, uncounted residences and public facilities have been pounded into rubble. It took only 12,000 American soldiers and marines to smash from one end of Falluja to the other. But unless 10,000 to 15,000 remain behind to protect voter registration and the promised reconstruction effort, residents are likely to become even more embittered. The chance for expanded Sunni participation in the election would be lost and the routed insurgents would be almost certain to return, as they have in several other cities after American troops moved on. The Bush administration has still not learned the lesson of Iraq - securing the peace takes more, not fewer, soldiers than winning battles.
American military commanders in Iraq should not have to choose between securing Falluja and driving the insurgents out of other strongholds. Both must be done if the elections are to have any chance of success. That will require sending those 20,000 to 40,000 additional troops right away. Because 20 months of occupation duty have left the Army so badly strained, reinforcement will require even greater reliance on reservists and divisions that have already served in Iraq. These desperate policies cannot continue much longer without a damaging toll on morale, readiness and recruitment.
What is needed is a significant permanent increase in the regular Army, through recruitment, without a draft. But shifting more of the Pentagon's well-padded budget into manpower has few supporters in a Defense Department transfixed with faddish theories of quick war-fighting, outsourced peacekeeping and minimal ground forces. Iraqi civilians without jobs and clean water and American soldiers without relief and a clear strategy for winning the peace have been paying the price for those seductive theories long enough.