Troop Availbility for Iraq to Jan 21 2009

Via Think Progress:
President Bush said:

We’re not leaving so long as I’m the president. That would be a huge mistake.

Okay, some of this is political language of the GOP strategy of still casting Bush as “strong and resolute” who does not govern according to polls, evidence or reality, but some of this actually seems to be stated policy. So where does that leave the US Army on troop availiability?

January 21, 2009 is two and a half years from today, so that means at least two full rotations of troops into Iraq are still on the schedule. The current rotation going into Iraq is composed of thirteen active duty Army and Marine brigade equivilants and one National Guard brigade. The US had been trying to draw down to six to ten brigades for this rotation in order to build breathing room into the rotation schedule, but reality intervened.

The Army is stretched and it is exhausted. The ideal rotation schedule for US Army combat units would be one year in Iraq and at least two years out of any combat zones to reconstitute and retrain. That schedule is being routinely broken. This is why the US Army wanted to get down to six to brigades by next January, to be able to rest several units and start rebuilding rested units. The Marines are in the same basic situation, but most of their combat units have either completed or are on alert to deploy for their third seven month tour.

The Army has seen at least six of the ten active duty divisions (101st Airborne, 1st Armored, 1st Infantry, 1st Cavalry, 3rd Infantry, 4th Infantry) either complete or in the middle of their second deployment to Iraq. The 82cd Airborne Division, 25th Infantry Division and 10th Mountain Division have seen multiple tours of duty split between Iraq and Afghanistan, while the 2nd Infantry has seen elements do multiple tours in either Iraq or Afghanistan while a single brigade stays in Korea. The independent brigades (2nd and 3rd ACR, 172nd Infantry, 173rd Airborne) have also seen multiple tours.

The Army had relied upon National Guard units to bridge the availability gap in the first four rotations of forces into Iraq. However the better trained and equipped brigades, the fifteen former Enhanced Seperate Brigades, have all been used. The remaining brigades have either deployed, are commited to Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, or the Sinaii or are unready for combat operations at this time. There is very little slack left in the Army force pool. Instead the National Guard is incapable of meeting its domestic mission requirements of diseaster response.

So where do the forces come from? Under the optimistic/delusion scenario, peace breaks out tomorrow morning and everyone sings kumbaya. Highly unlikely to say the least. The two options for US force levels in Iraq are to either withdraw to the periphery, in either Kurdistan or Kuwait [good discussion on options at Belgravia Dispatch] or to gring the Army into dust with third and fourth combat deployments of active duty formations. The National Guard will be able to help the Army out starting in the winter of 2008 as two former ESBs will see their deployment clocks reset to zero, but until then, if the United States Army is to maintain twelve or more brigade equivilants in Iraq, plus whatever the USMC can contribute, it is going to be an overwhelmingly active duty show.

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