- The Washington Times - Monday, August 4, 2003

It’s hard to win a 12 division war with a 10 division Army. About half the combat formations of the active Army are in Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea or Kosovo. The strains are showing. They were most visible in the complaints of soldiers and spouses of the 3rd Infantry Division, who were told twice that the division was coming home, only to have its stay in Iraq extended.

One brigade of the 3rd is now back home at Fort Stewart. The other two should join it by Labor Day. But the fundamental problem remains.

The Department of Defense announced recently that it will keep U.S. troop strength in Iraq at about 145,000 for the indefinite future, and the Army announced a plan to rotate units currently stationed in Iraq after they have served about a year.

Defense had hoped to be withdrawing troops from Iraq by now, but the discovery of a large Ba’athist resistance network in June, the upsurge of violence since then and the failure of other nations to contribute as much to peacekeeping forces as the Bush administration had hoped put the kibosh on that.

Some 30 nations are helping out in Iraq, but only Britain and Poland are providing more than token assistance.

A number of Democratic notables have suggested that the Bush administration swallow its pride and go hat in hand to the United Nations. But the U.N. record of peacekeeping in Rwanda, Bosnia, Congo, Somalia and Sierra Leone does not inspire confidence that turning over responsibility for reconstructing Iraq to that body would have a happy outcome.

If we are to succeed in Iraq, Iraqis must assume responsibility for governing themselves, and for protecting themselves. The sooner that process begins, the sooner we can declare victory and come home.

The process has begun, and is in fact well under way, though successes are largely being ignored by a news media that seems determined to paint as bleak a picture as possible.

When Iraqis supplement, and eventually replace, Americans on peacekeeping and security duties, three good things happen:

• The number of U.S. troops required to provide security in Iraq declines.

• The threat to the U.S. troops still in Iraq diminishes, because they will be less vulnerable to attack.

• Unemployment in Iraq diminishes and the number of Iraqis dependent upon the United States for their livelihood increases. This has a beneficial impact upon loyalty.

The place to begin in Iraq is where the Marines have begun, by training Iraqis to be security guards at schools, hospitals, mosques and other important public buildings now mostly being protected by U.S. troops.

It isn’t very difficult to train security guards, and candidates for a security guard force need not be as carefully vetted, so it should be possible to build up a force of tens of thousands fairly quickly.

Competent police forces are more important. But police take longer to train, and more comprehensive background checks must be done on police recruits.

The Coalition Provisional Authority plans to put 61,000 Iraqi police officers on the beat. So far, about 30,000 have been returned to duty. The remainder could be on the beat in six months to a year.

Finally, an Iraqi army has to be built, both to assist U.S. forces in hunting down the Ba’athist remnant and to protect Iraqi sovereignty once most U.S. forces leave.

The army would be built in two stages. Central Command announced in mid-July plans to recruit 10 battalions of about 350 Iraqis each that would be trained by, and fight alongside, U.S. divisions or regiments. The battalions would be relatively lightly armed and would be more of a paramilitary force like the Philippine Constabulary or the Italian Carabinieri than a real army.

Meanwhile, recruitment has begun for the cadre that will form a professional army. It takes years to create a professional army, because it takes a long time to develop officers and NCOs. But the security guard force, the police forces and the militia can be built up rapidly enough to bring home many U.S. troops by Easter.

Jack Kelly, a syndicated columnist, is a former Marine and Green Beret and a former deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. He is national security writer for the Pittsburgh (Pa.) Post-Gazette.

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