"QAIM, Iraq (AP) — Hundreds of U.S. troops combed through a village near the Syrian border Sunday, breaking into houses and fighting sporadic gun battles with gunmen on the second day of a new offensive against al-Qaida insurgents. At least eight militants were killed, the military said.Many residents fled Sadah village into Syria before the offensive began, witnesses said, and the 1,000 U.S. soldiers involved appeared to be widening the sweep into two nearby towns."
General John Abizeid said on TV today that it is mere "parsing" (evidently now an Army ‘term of art’ like ‘clever’) which makes it look like General Casey stepped all over himself in testifying that the number of fully functional Iraqi infantry battalions (650 men or so) had declined from three to one in the last month or so. Casey, himself, had said previously that the number was three. Now, "parsing" here means detailed analysis on the basis of some kind of rules and numerical scoring to "award" a "grade" of some sort to describe readiness for combat. As I have written below, this is an inherently flawed process because it is impossible for any human now alive to reduce so complex a phenomenon as "combat power" to factorable numerical values. There are simply too many factors and too many judgments involved that require "scorers" with "natural pitch" in "listening." In other words, the judgement as to when a unit is "ready" is inherently a subjective one.
No matter. The strategy being followed in Iraq by the US requires a constant and dependable increase in the number of "ready" Iraqi combat units. Are we getting it?
At Tel Afar, the US brought the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment to the fight as well as the 5,000 man Iraqi 3rd Infantry Division. This is a small division, more like a brigade but presumably the desire to build "force structure" for the future required an Iraqi Major General. Perhaps the officer inherited from the Pash Merga demanded this grade. This is the grade of the officer who would normally command a division. Another difficulty with the Iraqi troops at Tel Afar is that they were pretty much all Kurds operating against their ancestral Turkmen enemies in an area in which the Kurdish people have irredentist ambitions.
No matter. At least they were there with the mission of occupying the city (200,000 inhabitants) once they and the 3rd Cav. had cleared the place of guerrillas. So far as I know they are still there.
Now we see a smallish (1000) man US task force fighting in a couple more small towns (Sadah and Karabilah) of the Euphrates River Valley. (see my earlier post "Guerrillas and Water") This is not a large force for that job, and to put it together it was evidently necessary to pull together both Army and US Marine units. This is indicative of the relatively small number of forces available on the ground in Iraq. In a small operation like this one ("Iron Fist") any commander would prefer to have troops from the same unit and certainly from the same service. Coordination problems rise dramatically in "scratch" provisional task forces unused to workiing together. This task force will have to be withdrawn from the immmediate area when the shooting dies down for the same reason that it was necessary to create a provisional task force for the operations. Bottom Line: There are too few American forces available to leave them there. AND we need to see if Iraqi forces can hold these towns as well.
So, where are they? None of the press accounts that I have seen mention Iraqi troops in "Iron Fist." Why is that? Is it because there are none available? If that is true, then where are we?
Anyone who would care to enlighten me on the subject of Iraqi Forces in operation "Iron Fist" is invited to do so.