Military Plans Pullout Next Year

From the September 2005 Trumpet Print Edition

U.S. officials are preparing for a phased, large-scale pullout of Iraq by summer 2006. According to the New York Times, 30,000 of 138,000 U.S. troops will be leaving by next spring, “conditions on the ground permitted” (August 6).

On July 10, the Mail, a British newspaper, published a memo allegedly leaked from a British official that indicates that of the 176,000 troops in Iraq, up to 110,000 would be withdrawn. This is good news for the thousands of families who have been without the fathers, husbands, mothers and wives who have selflessly sacrificed and put their lives on the line for their country. But it “provides a glimpse into U.S. strategic thinking” (Stratfor, July 13) that carries troublesome implications.

According to the memo, the insurrection has been brought under control in 14 of Iraq’s 18 provinces—areas that can soon be relinquished to Iraqi control.

This may partly be the reason for withdrawing a majority of the troops by next year. But looking at the situation honestly, there lurks “a more gloomy reality,” as Stratfor suggests: The U.S. simply doesn’t have enough troops to maintain this level of commitment.

The Times reports, “Senior administration and Pentagon officials, as well as political leaders in both parties, say there is mounting anxiety over the $5 billion-a-month cost of the war, an overtaxed military, dismal recruiting in the Army and National Guard, dwindling public support for the operation, and a steadily growing number of casualties …” (op. cit.).

It’s true that both the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns demonstrated the unmatched strength of the U.S. military to invade and conquer. The problem is, in the post-9/11 world, the occupation phase of war is as intense a military operation as the battles themselves. Plus, the war on terrorism has virtually no end in sight, and the U.S. lacks the manpower to extend the war to another front.

The U.S. has been occupying two hostile territories without increasing the size of the Army. In fact, military recruitment numbers are substantially declining. The Army will not meet recruitment goals by the end of fiscal year 2005 (ending September 30). The Army Reserve—which comprises roughly 40 percent of the Army’s troops in Iraq—faces even greater shortfalls.

The Army is even losing officers. More junior officers left the force in 2004 than in the previous two years. Thus, the promotion rate for officers has been accelerated, which can compromise the quality of the forces: “[M]any officers are promoted with less experience and less-developed leadership skills. In addition, the Army is lowering the requirements for officer candidates, relaxing age restrictions, and accepting candidates who would normally be rejected due to prior convictions for drug or alcohol-related offenses” (Stratfor, June 17).

Also compromising the strength of the military, is the fact that “the Army has made it more difficult to kick soldiers out for abusing alcohol or drugs, being overweight or performing unsatisfactorily, such as failing to meet physical fitness standards” (ibid.).

Because of the declining recruitment numbers and a longer-than-expected occupation, the Army is being overextended. Troops are being forced to stay beyond their contractually agreed-upon terms.

This situation appears to be affecting soldiers’ families. In 2004, the divorce rate for officers jumped 3.5 percent over 2000—before 9/11. Divorce rates among deployed troops increased dramatically from the start of the Iraq war through 2004—78 percent among officers and 53 percent among enlisted personnel. Might this contribute to further weakening of U.S. defense forces as men and women cope with the emotional wreckage of a divorce or even leave the military to save their marriages?

Washington truly is in a conundrum: It lacks the forces to maintain a decent occupation in a volatile country and lacks the military preparedness to handle another war on another front. Even its present strength is being diluted.

Stratfor added, “[T]he administration … assumes that there will be no threats in Eurasia that the United States would have to respond to until 2007 at the earliest, and ideally not before 2008. That may be true, but given the history of the second half of the 20th century, it is pushing the odds” (op. cit.).

Speaking of the capability to project force into Eurasia, Stratfor stated, “At this point, that capability simply doesn’t exist. The United States can sustain operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and maybe squeeze out a few brigades for operations elsewhere—but that’s all …. That puts the United States in the most dangerous position it has been in since before World War ii” (ibid.).

The morale of America’s troops, and its people’s will to see a thorny occupation through, will continue to falter. The snazzy technology and highly trained special forces—though achieving certain temporary success for the nation—will ultimately be resources spent in vain, as a prophecy in Leviticus describes.