- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Today, the Iraq Study Group is expected to issue a report calling for a gradual, partial withdrawal of U.S. military forces in Iraq, with a goal of turning security responsibilities over to the Iraqi military, and to shift the American role away from fighting jihadists and toward training Iraqi forces. But with the security situation in Iraq deteriorating, it’s past time for a serious debate on how to win the war by defeating the Islamofascists on the battlefield, instead of deluding ourselves into thinking that we can magically train Iraqis so that they can stand on their own to fight and win the war in the next four or six or eight months.

We are also kidding ourselves if we think that “redeploying” American forces away from Baghdad and hotbeds of terror like the Sunni Triangle and western Anbar province and moving them to places like Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates or Okinawa will stabilize Iraq or that political negotiations with Shi’ite or Sunni factions will change things for the better absent a decisive victory on the battlefield over the terrorists. While significant progress has been made toward building a capable Iraqi army over the past few years, the Iraqi military is by all accounts a very long way from being able to succeed on its own. Moreover, the Iraqi police remain a disaster area — mired in corruption, infested with spies and terrorist sympathizers.

To win the war will require, at least in the short term, additional commitments of American troops to protect Iraqis from terrorists who prey on them, as Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham are suggesting.

American Enterprise Institute scholar Frederick Kagan argues persuasively that more resources combined with a different military strategy will be necessary to improve the situation. His research suggests that another 50,000 to 80,000 troops would enable the U.S. military to combat the terrorist armies now roiling in Baghdad without drawing forces away from Anbar and other dangerous parts of the country. The problem with earlier military operations such as Operation Together Forward II — the recent unsuccessful effort to stabilize Baghdad — is that the military failed to leave forces behind in areas that had been “cleared” of insurgents, thereby enabling the terrorists to return, a point acknowledged in congressional testimony by Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

The chief objection to adding more troops in Iraq — the argument Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the generals have been making for the past three and a half years — is that we lack the manpower. This is simply untrue. This spring, for example, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Peter Pace said that “you’ve got about 2 million U.S. service members who are not currently involved directly in the Gulf region … We have sufficient personnel, weapons, equipment — you name it — to handle any adversary that might come along.” That should certainly leave room for another 50,000-80,000 troops to achieve the most necessary condition of winning in Iraq: creating basic security for the Iraqi people.

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