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Army stretched to breaking point, report says
Rumsfeld says military not overextended but 'battle hardened'

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Stretched by frequent troop rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army has become a "thin green line" that could snap unless relief comes soon, according to a study for the Pentagon.

Andrew Krepinevich, a retired Army officer who wrote the report under a Pentagon contract, concluded that the Army cannot sustain the pace of troop deployments to Iraq long enough to break the back of the insurgency. He also suggested that the Pentagon's decision, announced in December, to begin reducing the force in Iraq this year was driven in part by a realization that the Army was overextended.

However, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on Wednesday disputed suggestions that the U.S. military is stretched thin, asserting "the force is not broken."

"This armed force is enormously capable," Rumsfeld told reporters at a Pentagon briefing. "In addition, it's battle hardened. It's not a peacetime force that has been in barracks or garrisons."

In the report, Krepinevich pointed to the Army's 2005 recruiting slump -- missing its recruiting goal for the first time since 1999 -- and its decision to offer much bigger enlistment bonuses and other incentives.

"You really begin to wonder just how much stress and strain there is on the Army, how much longer it can continue," he said in an interview. He added that the Army is still a highly effective fighting force and is implementing a plan that will expand the number of combat brigades available for rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 136-page report represents a more sobering picture of the Army's condition than military officials offer in public. While not released publicly, a copy of the report was provided in response to an Associated Press inquiry.

Illustrating his level of concern about strain on the Army, Krepinevich titled one of his report's chapters, "The Thin Green Line."

He wrote that the Army is "in a race against time" to adjust to the demands of war "or risk `breaking' the force in the form of a catastrophic decline" in recruitment and re-enlistment.

Col. Lewis Boone, spokesman for Army Forces Command, which is responsible for providing troops to war commanders, said it would be "a very extreme characterization" to call the Army broken. He said his organization has been able to fulfill every request for troops that it has received from field commanders.

The Krepinevich assessment is the latest in the debate over whether the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have worn out the Army, how the strains can be eased and whether the U.S. military is too burdened to defeat other threats.

Rep. John Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat and Vietnam veteran, created a political storm last fall when he called for an early exit from Iraq, arguing that the Army was "broken, worn out" and fueling the insurgency by its mere presence. Administration officials have hotly contested that view.

George Joulwan, a retired four-star Army general and former NATO commander, agrees the Army is stretched thin.

"Whether they're broken or not, I think I would say if we don't change the way we're doing business, they're in danger of being fractured and broken, and I would agree with that," Joulwan told CNN last month.

Krepinevich did not conclude that U.S. forces should quit Iraq now, but said it may be possible to reduce troop levels below 100,000 by the end of the year. There now are about 136,000, Pentagon officials said Tuesday. (U.S. troop levels)

For an Army of about 500,000 soldiers -- not counting the thousands of National Guard and Reserve soldiers now on active duty -- the commitment of 100,000 or so to Iraq might not seem an excessive burden. But because the war has lasted longer than expected, the Army has had to regularly rotate fresh units in while maintaining its normal training efforts and reorganizing the force from top to bottom.

Krepinevich's analysis, while consistent with the conclusions of some outside the Bush administration, is in stark contrast with the public statements of Rumsfeld and senior Army officials.

Army Secretary Francis Harvey, for example, opened a Pentagon news conference last week by denying the Army was in trouble. "Today's Army is the most capable, best-trained, best-equipped and most experienced force our nation has fielded in well over a decade," he said, adding that recruiting has picked up.

Rumsfeld has argued that the experience of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan has made the Army stronger, not weaker.

"The Army is probably as strong and capable as it ever has been in the history of this country," he said in an appearance at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington on December 5. "They are more experienced, more capable, better equipped than ever before."

Krepinevich said in the interview that he understands why Pentagon officials do not state publicly that they are being forced to reduce troop levels in Iraq because of stress on the Army. "That gives too much encouragement to the enemy," he said, even if a number of signs, such as a recruiting slump, point in that direction.

Krepinevich is executive director of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a nonprofit policy research institute.

He said he concluded that even Army leaders are not sure how much longer they can keep up the unusually high pace of combat tours in Iraq before they trigger an institutional crisis. Some major Army divisions are serving their second yearlong tours in Iraq, and some smaller units have served three times.

Michael O'Hanlon, a military expert at the private Brookings Institution, said in a recent interview that "it's a judgment call" whether the risk of breaking the Army is great enough to warrant expanding its size.

"I say yes. But it's a judgment call, because so far the Army isn't broken," O'Hanlon said.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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**Democracy and Freedom of Speech my azz:

L.A. Times writer defends incendiary Iraq column
Wed Jan 25, 2006 5:27 PM ET

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Los Angeles Times columnist who infuriated conservatives by writing that he does not support American troops fighting in Iraq -- and calling those who do "wusses" -- stood by the article on Tuesday.

Joel Stein said he has been "bombarded" by hate mail over the incendiary article -- which was headlined "Warriors and Wusses" and held that U.S. soldiers in Iraq were "ignoring their morality" -- but does not regret writing it and stands by the premise.

"I don't support what they are doing, and I don't the see point of putting a big yellow magnet on your car if you don't," Stein told Reuters in an interview. "I don't think (soldiers) are necessarily bad people. I do plenty of things that are wrong too. But I don't agree with what they are doing so I don't see the logic of supporting it."

The article, which ran on the Times opinion page on Tuesday, was quickly linked on conservative sites across the Internet, where readers poured scorn on Stein, on the newspaper and on liberals in general.

"If I ever run into the a**hole, I'm going to knock his frickin' block off," one man wrote on the Little Green Footballs ( Web site, one of nearly 500 people who had commented on the article by mid-afternoon.

Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin quickly nominated Stein as "one of the most loathsome people in America." The Irish Pennants ( site slammed him as "slime" but gave credit for honesty, adding:

"At least he is straightforward slime."

A Times spokesman said he could not immediately determine how many complaints the newspaper had received or if any readers had canceled subscriptions.

Stein said that, despite the fact that his e-mail address was not made public by the paper, he had received some 100 "hate e-mails" by noon.

"They're telling me to leave the country, which sounded good at first because I thought they meant a vacation. But they didn't mean a vacation," he said. The columnist said he suspected the reaction was largely fueled by the Web sites, adding: "My guess is that it will die down pretty quickly."

Stein said he had long considered the issue and that whenever a politician opposes the war but supports the troops "I just always think they are covering their ass."

Asked if he had regrets, he said: "No, because I'm against the war. (I have no regrets) if this helps us get out of that war and bring our troops home safely."
Here is a great piece by Pat...


Iran vs. Israel: Bush's dilemma

Posted: January 25, 2006
1:00 a.m. Eastern

By Patrick J. Buchanan

© 2006 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

In the test of wills between the West and Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad shows no sign of backing down.

The Iranian president has said Israel should be "wiped off the map," called the Holocaust a "myth" and said Israelis should be given a province in Austria, but they should get out of Palestine. Whatever was done to the Jews, said Ahmadinejad, we didn't do it. Europeans did. Why should we pay the price?

This weekend, the New York Times provided supporting testimony for Ahmadinejad, citing secret Cabinet notes of Winston Churchill's in 1943:

I'm committed to creation of a Jewish National Home in Palestine. Let us go on with that; and at end of war we shall have plenty of force with which to compel the Arabs to acquiesce in our designs. Don't shirk our duties because of difficulties ...

This weekend, Ahmadinejad was in Damascus, Syria, winning the backing of President Assad for Iran's nuclear program, meeting with Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, and scoffing at Israeli threats. Iran has also reasserted its right to enrich uranium for nuclear power.

This has caused much threatening talk in Israel and here. This weekend, Sens. John McCain and Joe Lieberman were again speaking of "military options" being "on the table." And Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz went further, speaking directly to Iran's president:

I address you as someone who leads his country with an ideology of hate, terror and anti-Semitism. I suggest you look at history and see what happened to others who tried to wipe out the Jewish people ... Israel is not prepared to accept the nuclear arming of Iran, and it must prepare to defend itself, with all that implies.

But Ahmadinejad is not backing off. And his provocative rhetoric has paid off. He has strengthened his position at home and made himself the toast of the Muslim street. And panic over a possible war sent the Dow plunging 200 points last Friday, wiping out $200 billion in U.S. shareholders' equity, a loss almost equal to the cost of the Iraq war.

And with the price of a barrel of oil spiking $10 to near $70, Iran, which exports 2.5 million barrels daily, has seen revenues rise $25 million a day. Other oil-producing nations, like Hugo Chavez's Venezuela, also are reaping windfall profits.

The jolts to the Dow and NASDAQ, and Tehran's warnings that sanctions could be met with an oil embargo that could send prices to $100 a barrel, seem to have caused second thoughts in the Bush camp about the wisdom of a confrontation.

In a week, the International Atomic Energy Agency will decide whether to send Iran to the Security Council. But as there is no hard evidence Iran is building weapons or is even in noncompliance with the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, Russia may oppose sanctions and China may veto them.

As for the military option, no one knows what U.S. air strikes might produce. Possibilities include tens of thousands of Iranian volunteers streaming into Iraq to attack U.S. troops, Iran's inciting of the Shia south to rise against us, an oil embargo, Silkworm missiles fired at tankers, the closing of the Straits of Hormuz with mines, and terror attacks on U.S. allies and installations across the Middle East – driving the price of oil to $200 a barrel.

With 160,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, U.S. strikes, which could kill hundreds of Iranians and silence the pro-American voices there, uniting Iran behind Amadinejad, would seem an option that could cost us everything. Can we really afford another war, against a nation three times as populous and four times as large as Iraq?

Bush and Cheney seem aware of the risks of the "military option." But if they rule it out, they will see a bad moon rising on the Right. Not only will the neoconservatives howl, Israelis will see themselves as the odd man out, if Bush should move to negotiations with Tehran, which is the only real option to confrontation.

If America does not strike, Mofax is saying, Israel will. Yet, as that could produce the same results as an American attack, without the same assurance of success, Bush may have to restrain Israel, if he does not want a wider war.

In short, if Bush does not confront Iran on the nuclear issue with sanctions or air strikes, he may find himself confronted by Israelis and their U.S. auxiliaries. Hearken to Hillary Clinton:

I don't believe you face threats like Iran and North Korea by outsourcing it to others and standing on the sidelines. But let's be clear about the threat we face now: A nuclear Iran is a danger to Israel, to its neighbors and beyond.

Hillary is saying that if George Bush does not confront Iran, he is open to the charge of leaving Israel to face a nuclear attack by a regime that has threatened to wipe Israel off the map. Political hardball.

Over to you, Mr. President.

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