2006-2007 Iraq Troop Rotations

The optimistic case as I have blogged before for US troop levels for the end of 2006 to the fall of 2007 was that the US could drop the occupation force to six brigades, all of which are fairly light brigades, and allow the Iraqi Army and Interior Ministry do the bloody and difficult task of day to day counter-insurgency, while the US provided the over the horizon intervention force and protected Iraqi borders. That was the optimistic view.

This optimistic view required peace to break out immediately after the December elections. It would have allowed the US to have a breather in the deployment schedule and actually rest the National Guard. However peace has not broken out, and the political decision is to do more of the same and hope for better results.

The DoD has announced an additional four Army brigades to the rotation. This is a heavier roster of forces than the first announcement with at least two heavy brigades. Some of these units (1st Cavalry Division) were deployed in Iraq from March 2004 to March/April 2005, and they will be going back on eighteen months rest. This is a pace faster than the desired reconstitution rate by roughly 25%.

So right now ten brigades are in the next rotation. This fits in with the mildly optimistic scenario. That scenario assumed an increasing ability for US forces to clear a town and Iraqi forces to hold it for ink blot counter-insurgency. That really is not happening that much, as US forces are retreating to their fire bases or are tasked primarily for self-sustainment.

It is important to note that so far no Marine brigades have been notified that they are being deployed. The II Marine Expeditionary Force has been alerted that it will be sent to Iraq for the next rotation. An MEF tends to be a division and support elements, but it is a flexible force, so we could see two or three Marine infantry regiments, but this has not been made explicit yet.

So we are looking at twelve or thirteen brigade equivalants being mobilized for the next rotation as of this morning, and it is probble that we will see more units notified for future deployment. This is the muddling through force. It is not a decisive force, it is not an invisible support force. It is a noticable target that so far its near peers have not been able to reverse or at least slow down the slide of central Iraq into a pre-modern state.

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