Thursday, February 22, 2007

British Military Overstretched

Thanks to mishandling by Bush, Cheney and the fired Rumsfeld, we are at risk of losing two wars, one in Afghanistan and one in Iraq. Dick Cheney seems to be itching for a third war, this one with Iran, without bothering to engage in serious diplomacy. The Bush Administration and its neoconservative allies never understood the job, the Iraqi people or the military requirements. Clearly, we never sent enough troops to stabilize Iraq and we put Afghanistan on the back burner far longer than we should have instead of finishing the job. I have said this any number of times.

Cheney is being fraudelent when he says the war is going so well that the British can send troops home. If Bush is to have any chance of getting his foreign policy under control, he needs to urge Cheney to resign or, at the very least, cut back the vice president's portfolio so that he'll no longer create problems with his strange right wing ideology. The British are now in a position where they essentially are overstretched. Here's the story from Kim Murphy of the Los Angeles Times:
Britain's decision to pull 1,600 troops out of Iraq by spring, touted by U.S. and British leaders as a turning point in Iraqi sovereignty, was widely seen Wednesday as a telling admission that the British military could no longer sustain simultaneous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The British military is approaching "operational failure," former defense staff chief Charles Guthrie warned this week.

"Because the British army is in essence fighting a far more intensive counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan, there's been a realization that there has to be some sort of transfer of resources from Iraq to Afghanistan," said Clive Jones, a senior lecturer in Middle East politics at the University of Leeds, who has closely followed Britain's Iraq deployment.

"It's either that, or you risk in some ways losing both," he said. "It's the classic case of 'Let's declare victory and get out.' "

What is happening to the British is exactly what a number of American generals have warned could happen to us. In Iraq, we don't have enough people, we don't have enough equipment, training is seriously beginning to slip and we have people in the Bush Administration who still don't know what they're doing. The reality is that the United States never fully mobilized for the war Dick Cheney and George W. Bush had in mind; the job of civilians, apparently, was to go about their business and, by the way, go shopping.

Even if we manage to stabilize Iraq and Bush calls that a victory, we have lost far more than anything we have gained. There have been some calls lately to make sure the job in Afghanistan is finished. Al Qaida is making a comeback along the Pakistan/Afghanistan border. It's time to get out of the middle of a civil war in Iraq, leave forces nearby and concentrate on finishing the neglected job in Afghanistan.

Note: The LA Times article has a mildly misleading graph from the Brookings Institute. It gives the impression there were fewer coalition forces in Iraq in 2003 than there actually were, though by the end of 2003, coalition forces had dropped considerably in numbers. It should be noted that the British alone had at least 40,000 troops in Iraq at the beginning of the war.

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