Monday, June 20, 2005

unwise to see it through

(welcome xymphorans)

* everyones pointing to this from friday:
"A former Pentagon official, journalist, and president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Leslie Gelb, a man with considerable political and military knowledge, came back from a fact-finding trip in Iraq talking about the ''gap between those who work there, who were really careful of every word they uttered of prediction or analysis, and the expansive, sometimes, I think, totally unrealistic optimism you hear from people back in Washington."
In a report to the council, Gelb was scathing about America efforts to train an Iraqi army. ''If you ask any Iraqi leader, they will tell you these people can't fight. They just aren't trained. And yet we're cranking them out like rabbits." As for plans to train a 10 division Iraqi army by next year, Gelb was scathing. ''It became very apparent to me that these 10 divisions were to fight some future war against Iran. It had nothing to do, nothing to do," with taking Iraq over from the Americans and fighting the insurgents."
read billmon for example.

gelb's comments were from a speech april 26 where he was mostly just recounting the story of his trip, and the speech seemed like it wasnt really 'prepared' so its a bit difficult to get a real sense of what he was saying.

"It was interesting to see then and thereafter the gap really between those who work there, who were really careful of every word they uttered of prediction or analysis, and the expansive, sometimes, I think, totally unrealistic optimism you hear from people back in Washington. But it doesn't come from these people."

What about the ability of the Iraqis to take over their own security, to stand in for the incredible American soldiers who are there, who really know what they are doing? Let me tell you what I heard. You'll see what you think. We now have trained about 154,371 Iraqi troops. We keep very good track of this. The training for a border guard is three weeks. The training for the regular Iraqi army is five weeks. The training for an Iraqi [laughter]--I know you're laughing. I had all I can do to keep a straight face. The training for an Iraqi commando, 12 weeks.

If you ask any Iraqi leader, they will tell you these people can't fight. They just aren't trained. And yet we're cranking them out like rabbits. I'm going to leave the names out of here because I really do admire the people involved, and I know what political pressure is. I said, "Well, where is all this heading?" And no kidding, he said to me, "A 10-division Iraqi armed force." And I lost it at that point, the only time in the whole trip I just lost it. I said, "Ten divisions! The United States Army has 10 divisions!" And he said, "And two mechanized divisions." I said, "We have two mechanized divisions! You're going to create an Iraqi army as big as the American Army? Are you nuts?" And then the next PowerPoint chart comes up: "Well, we need a division here and we need a division here and we need a division"--it became very apparent to me that these 10 divisions were to fight some future war against Iran. It had nothing to do--nothing to do--with taking that country over from us and fighting the insurgents. It made no sense to me. It was the single-most disturbing conversation I had because our ability to turn over responsibility to them in a phased and responsible way and leave as we should at some point hinges so directly on that."
later he says:
"Second thing we have to do is to scale way back the number of forces we're training to half, and train them, make them good soldiers so that they can responsibly replace ours. In the many conversations we had, I would tell them, sort of uncharacteristically for me, something I didn't quite believe. I said, "Don't worry about us; we're not going to run out on you." But I'm worried about running out. I'm worried about running out on them, on our people's sacrifice, our interests in the area. And we've got to plan more for the next two years than for the next five. We've got to help them take care of themselves just in case we don't see it through or it becomes unwise to see it through"

so it would seem that he (maybe) doesnt really think that we are standing up an army to attack iran - either as mercenaries for 'us', or on their own behalf, but perhaps maybe they are just re-building their army as it was 5 years ago, when it was presumably largely as a posture against the threat from iran.

the iran thing notwithstanding, the problem is that he thinks that the army will be useless for counter-resistance activity, which presumably means that they will never be able to replace the americans.

the other thing that struck me is that gelb (bio) is "one of America’s leading experts on foreign policy", yet 2+ years after the invasion its quite odd that even he didnt have a clue what sort/size of army the iraqis are building. think about that. there are 3 parts to this: a) there actually is a plan. b) gelb didnt have a clue what the plan was. c) gelb was surprised by the size/structure.

at least we now know there actually is a plan, so i guess thats a start. its odd that its apparently a secret, cos all blinky will say is 'we'll leave when they are safe'. apparently that is also the stance they take in private, as well as public.

in that light, its odd that an "expert on U.S. foreign policy and national security" hadnt previously been aware of the plan, nor even apparently considered it. given that standing up a new army is sposed to be our ticket outta there, you'd think these people would be a little more curious about the details.

in any case, the idea that he's worried about cutting & running is probably a good sign, unless he's being left outta the loop on that one as well.

update - when i was originally composing this post, i struggled with a lot of the implications, and ended up deleting most of my thoughts because i couldnt quite get my head around a lot of it.

let me first state that i have no understanding of military affairs - i dont even know what a division is, let alone a mechanised division, but im not sure that matters. what does matter is that someone who does know is surprised about the planned size of the iraqi army.

one thing we keep hearing from the bush administration (i call them the egadministration) is that they are trying to build an army which is capable of defending iraq - but we never hear what any of the metrics are, so its impossible to get a grip on whether they are making progress versus their own metrics. they might say (however disingenuously) that they have trained x number of soldiers, but theres never been any indication about how that compares with any endgame.

the fact that gelb was surprised about the magnitude of the plan tells us a few things. firstly, establishment figures in the US have no fucking idea what is going on. that may not come as a surprise, but its pretty fucking serious. we are more than 2 years into a serious war, and the (purported) exit strategy is to train a sufficient number of iraqi troops to take over 'our' role, and here we have a major establishment player and even he was surprised at the plans - which tells us two things - firstly it tells us that he doesnt know whats going on, and secondly, but separately, that he thinks the goal is way too ambitious/ridiculous.

one part of the story is that gelb is surprised at the magnitude of the plan, but another part of the story is that gelb (and by extension, others) had no idea what the plan was to start with. 27 months later. or 37 months later if you consider the DSM starting point.

i dont know what most of it means... ill try to tease out the possibiliteis in the next few days.

(btw - if anyone knows of a video of the speech, can you pls lemme know? thnx)


update: 2 points of interest:

first, during the iran/iraq war, according this, iraq did in fact have a twelve-division army.

second, according to this:
Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, in charge of training the new Iraqi army, understands the nature of the problem. In late January (2004), he predicted that Iraq would need an army of eight to 12 divisions to meet its defensive requirements. But he acknowledged the difficulty of reaching this goal, saying that it would require at least three to five years and could be achieved only through "prodigious contributions from donor nations."
so it seems that maybe gelb shouldnt have been surprised at the proposed size of the army after all.

granted, gelb's concerns about standing up a 10-division army were made 15 months after Eaton's comments, and the americans now find themselves in deep quagmire doo-doo, and are purportedly more interested in securing iraq internally so that they can leave, rather than worrying about protecting against external threats. in that light, we can probably interpret gelbs comments about "some future war against Iran" to read "the possibility of some future war against Iran", rather than actually plannning a war against iran.

if we go back to Eatons comments from last january, he said that it would :
a) take 3-5 years, *and*
b) require "prodigious contributions from donor nations".

well, we've gotta assume that we are way behind schedule, because we certainly havent seen any "prodigious contributions", and we can only assume that the nincompoops-in-charge didnt predict that things would be as bad as they are today, and that many recruits would be sent to heaven much earlier than their families had hoped.

its not difficult to assume that we can restart the clock, and perhaps we can talk about 3-5 years from today - which gives us a range of 2008-2010 - and even that assumes a bunch of things which we probably shouldnt assume...

one thing that we can apparently interpolate from Eaton and gelbs comments, is that the plan hasnt changed since last january, despite all that has happened in the interim. i guess the idiot president isnt known for his flexibility or responsiveness. my mind wanders back to last year when he and his minions kept repeating the mantra that even if you didnt agree with him, (or if he was on the wrong track) you knew that he'd keep charging along anyway. 'dont change horses mid-apocalypse' and the rest of the nonsense. or as the chicago tribune generously announced yesterday with the headline: "Bush expresses resolve on Iraq"

we can also begin to see why the Formerly Popular President refuses to give any timeline specifics - apparently that would give aid and comfort to the resistance, or some such. "thats what they want". (remember when he used that line in the debates wrt north korea?). the reality is a timetable is exactly what the american (and other) people want - and apparently thats why the egadministration refuses to give one, because even their most optimistic plans would be unacceptable - and thats why they are trying to ride a wave of perpetual incrementalism - aka the 'frog in the saucepan'.

and thats probably why gelb asking "Are you nuts?" was ignored/buried for *6 weeks*, until the boston globe reported on the comments and even then, not a single news outlet has picked up the story.

ftr, "Gen. Eaton is now Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Training at Fort Monroe" and was apparently sacked. (in august 04) "(Eaton) says the scope of his job just kept expanding. "We went from producing a 35,000-man army to producing or improving upon a quarter of a million security forces in the country of Iraq."" it isnt obvious how much of this inflation took place after his jan04 comments. its easy to imagine that a lot of it did, which would make the timelines above seem, ummm, 'quaint'.

(yesterday i mentioned that i didnt know what a division is, in a flash of genius, today i decided to look it up - bottom line: "a divisional unit typically consists of 10,000 to 20,000 troops commanded by a major general.")


update (wed): heres juan cole: "Most observers I know of who know anything serious about military training don't expect an effective Iraqi army to be stood up for five to ten years, so if Jaafari thinks there is a quick fix in this regard, he is just wrong." LINK


Anonymous said...

keep on this we're listening... thanks!

lukery said...

thanks for your support. ive emailed the cfr looking for the video of the speech and im also checking out some other stuff... more later, hopefully.