Signs Show U.S. Underestimated Iraq War

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Fri Sep 26 22:20:05 MDT 2003

*****   Signs Show U.S. Underestimated Iraq War
Friday September 26, 2003 8:39 PM
AP Military Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Wear and tear on tanks in Iraq is outpacing the
Army's efforts to repair and resupply. The administration is
scrambling to find thousands more troops by early next year. Stressed
American soldiers are suddenly being given two-week vacations.

Five months into the American occupation of Iraq, there are growing
signs that the Bush administration vastly underestimated what it
would take to stabilize the country after Baghdad fell in early April.

Pentagon planners had not expected that such a large U.S. force, now
totaling 130,000 troops, would be required for such a long period -
more than a year it now appears, rather than weeks.

They won't acknowledge the miscalculation publicly, but recent
developments make them obvious:

- Wear on tank treads and vehicle tires that has far outpaced the
Army's ability to resupply them. Treads that normally are replaced
once a year are wearing out in two months. Asked whether war planners
had anticipated such heavy work for U.S. ground troops this long
after the war, Gen. Paul Kern, the Army's materiel chief, said,
``Some did, some didn't.''

- The decision to require 12-month tours for all troops in Iraq,
including reservists. When the 3rd Infantry Division and the 1st
Marine Expeditionary Force conquered Baghdad in early April, those
troops thought the war was over and they would be headed home in a
matter of weeks. Instead they stayed for months, and their
replacements will serve even longer.

- The disclosure this week by senior military commanders that they
may have to take the politically sensitive step of calling up
thousands more reservists for Iraq duty than was planned just weeks
ago. A troop rotation plan announced in July included mobilization of
two National Guard brigades. But that plan is being re-evaluated in
light of continuing attacks on American forces and slow progress in
getting other countries to contribute troops.

- The Pentagon's decision to begin granting troops a vacation break,
leaves that began this week and are expected to increase in number.

``They planned to pull the troops out quickly,'' said Anthony
Cordesman, a defense expert at the Center for Strategic and
International Studies in Washington. That plan was based on what
Cordesman called an illogical assumption that U.S. forces would be
greeted almost universally as liberators, that political control
could be handed over to Iraqis quickly and that there would be no

``We never really had a nation-building plan,'' Cordesman said.

Pentagon planners did foresee some postwar difficulties. They were
prepared, for example, to deal with a refugee problem, with acute
hunger, with a torching of oil fields or with an explosion of ethnic
violence - none of which happened.

What they did not fully foresee was the violence aimed at U.S.
occupation troops and the other security problems that have hampered
the reconstruction efforts and angered many Iraqis.

An early indication that the administration did not foresee a long
and violent postwar period was a statement made by Defense Secretary
Donald H. Rumsfeld on Feb. 27, shortly before the war began.

``It's not logical to me,'' he told reporters, to think it would take
as many troops to keep the peace as it would to win the war. The
implication was that once Baghdad fell, U.S. forces could begin to
draw down as Iraqis took over more of the security duties around the

It remains the plan to transfer security and other responsibilities
to the Iraqis. But the looting and lawlessness that descended upon
parts of Iraq immediately after Saddam Hussein fell - followed by
increasingly sophisticated and deadly ambushes of U.S. troops - have
prevented any substantial decrease in the number of American troops
on the ground.

Some say it may have been beyond the Pentagon's capacity to
anticipate these problems.

``Military operations, in my experience, rarely turn out exactly as
you envisioned them, without having to make adjustments,'' said Steve
Abbot, a retired four-star Navy admiral who was deputy commander of
U.S. European Command when it ran the air war over Kosovo in 1999.
``Clearly there have been major adjustments.''


EDITOR'S NOTE - Robert Burns has covered military affairs for The
Associated Press since 1990.

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