Bush open to more troops, but critics say it may not help|
By Dave Moniz and Tom Squitieri, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — President Bush's promise to send more troops to Iraq if U.S. commanders request them still may not stabilize the country, many military analysts say.
In his news conference Tuesday, Bush said he would be willing to give Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, more troops if he asked for them. "If that's what he wants, that's what he gets," Bush said. Though Bush pledged no specific number, Abizaid told reporters Monday that he wants another two brigades of combat troops to help deal with rising violence in Iraq.
But those additional troops — between 5,000 and 10,000 soldiers — still might not be adequate to stem an increasingly bold insurgency, the analysts say.
Charles Pena, director of defense studies at the Cato Institute, says that adding more U.S. troops will only "make the problem worse" and increase Iraqi resentment.
The decision by Bush to abandon a plan that would have reduced U.S. troop levels from 135,000 to 105,000 undercuts earlier U.S. predictions about the force size needed for Iraq and was prompted by disturbing developments:
• The Iraqi insurgency has moved into a more deadly phase in which massed attacks on U.S. troops have replaced isolated ambushes with homemade bombs.
• U.S. troops, working with Iraqi forces, have been unable to seal off Iraq's borders and prevent foreign fighters from entering. Bush said he was "disappointed" in the performance of some Iraqi troops.
• New guerrilla tactics, including the taking of dozens of hostages has threatened everything from foreign investment to the U.S. military's ability to supply troops.
• American forces have been forced to engage in deadly urban warfare in Iraqi cities.
• Help from other nations, which now contribute about 24,000 troops, is set to wane soon.
Those factors have compounded what critics see as flawed planning assumptions by the Pentagon, whose leaders a year ago said most Iraqis would embrace the occupation and U.S. troop levels would be reduced by this summer.
Before the war, then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki warned Congress that 225,000 U.S. troops would be needed in Iraq for years; Pentagon officials attacked his estimate as wildly inaccurate.
U.S. officials say that new troops could be hard to find, and that there are relatively few combat units that are capable and haven't already been assigned to Iraq.
Alternatively, the Pentagon could freeze the rotation home of troops now in Iraq or accelerate the deployment of units notified on March 1 that they face Iraq duty.
The larger issue, particularly for the Army, is whether lengthy duty in Iraq sparks an exodus of soldiers. Bush said U.S. troops will stay in Iraq "as long as necessary."
"We are in a race against time to develop indigenous Iraqi forces before American forces vote with their feet and leave the military," says Andrew Krepinevich, director of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.