Friday, February 02, 2007

CENTCOM Follies: Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia

Also at DKos.

The Bush administration and its echo chamberlains continue the push to make Iran the cause of all things wrong in Iraq. But they're having trouble getting the story straight.

Iran got tired of all the accusations and said, "Prove it." We said, "Okay, give us a week and we will."

Then Iran got blamed for the attack on U.S. troops in Karbala.

But then it turned out a couple of senior Iraqi generals might have been behind the attacks.

And when it came time to produce all that proof we had of Iranian meddling in Iraq, we decided our proof wasn't good enough to release to the public.

Purge and Surge, Bait and Switch

On Thursday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted to send a resolution of disapproval of Mr. Bush's escalation strategy to the Senate floor next week.

The new Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the new commander of U.S. Forces in Iraq General David Petraeus have criticized the non-binding initiative, saying it will "embolden" the enemy and send the wrong signal to our troops. What would expect of them? They're Bush political appointees.

Mr. Bush's proposed "surge" was advertised as 21,500 additional troops to Iraq, but the Congressional Budget Office thinks the real number will be more that twice that--as high as 48,000. That's because the combat troops will need to be accompanied by support personnel. Here I thought the 21,500 figure included the support personnel. Silly me, taking anything Bush says at face value. I should know better by now. We all should.

Hold That Tiger?

Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) are trying to block any and all disapproval resolutions. They're proposing a bill that essentially gives Bush another blank check to do whatever he wants in Iraq. It establishes benchmarks for the Iraqis to meet, but doesn't list any consequences if the Iraqis fail to meet the benchmarks, nor does it dictate any timetables or deadlines. It expresses confidence in General Petraeus, and pledges that he will have all the resources he needs to complete the mission. Whatever the mission is.

At the end of the day, it probably won't matter what does or doesn't get passed by the Senate or the House. Dick Cheney has already said the administration is going "full speed ahead" with its policy. Public opinion, election results, legislation: none of that matters to the White House. In a November interview, Cheney told ABC's George Stephanopoulos that "We've got the strategy right." If old "Last Throes" thinks the strategy is "right," you know it has to be a Betty Crocker disaster.

Some members of Congress also want to keep Bush from attacking Iran without the legislature's permission. Good luck with that. The heated rhetoric between Tehran and Washington, combined with the U.S. naval buildup in the Gulf region, are a surefire formula for a repeat of the Tonkin Gulf incident that Lyndon Johnson used to justify escalation of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam Conflict.

What I still haven't figured out is why nobody in Congress or the media is asking what in the wide world of sports, arts and sciences we're doing in Somalia. In early January, our forces conducted at least two air strikes in southern Somalia, supposedly targeting members of al-Qaeda who were allegedly responsible for the bombing of two U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998.

We have stepped into the middle of a third civil war in the Central Command area of responsibility. Under what authority? I haven't heard an answer to that question. I haven't even heard anyone ask it.

One Tin Sailor

Lest we forget Afghanistan…

Radio Free Europe reports that the lower chamber of Afghanistan's parliament has passed a bill that will grant immunity to all Afghans involved in war crimes over the last 25 years. One of the bill's sponsors is Mohammad Mohaqeq, who has himself been accused of committing war crimes.

Afghan analyst Amin Tarzi predicts that the upper chamber will pass the bill in its current form, and that Afghan President Hamid Karzai will not veto it because "Karzai's plan is to offer an olive branch to the Taliban."

This would be the same Taliban we supposedly went into Afghanistan to eliminate.

One Bush nominee who hasn't blown too much in the standard line of administration bull feathers is Admiral William J. Fallon, who is on tap to succeed General John Abizaid as head of Central Command. Fallon has a reputation for being a no-nonsense kind of guy. I've heard him described as "completely humorless," at least in his public persona, but that's fine. The last thing we need right now is a funny man in charge of Central Command. We have enough clowns running around the White House and the Pentagon as it is.

And Fallon faces a deadly somber prospect. His predecessor, Abizaid, is the first American general to "not win" two wars. Fallon is staring down the barrel at the possibility of being the first American admiral to not win four of them.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.


  1. If I was Sadr, I would be thinking Tet-offensive by now. 48000 new targets is an invitation. They must have contigency plans, and the core of his militia has propably Lebanon-experience. Expect a series of ground to air attacks, combined with some spectacular attacks a la last weeks kidnapping.

  2. Fnord3:21 PM

    The interview with Fallon is disturbing, though he gets across as an open professional. Hes basically saying that he doesnt know what the hell he is getting into. That the US theatre commander doesnt know his own readyness-level is something of a scandal, surely?

  3. Anonymous4:11 PM

    If you read Steve Gilliards blog, you will learn that the troops are supplied by a long supply chain from Kuwait, across southern Iraq up to Baghdad.

    What do you suppose will happen if they want to disrupt that (and we are talking hundreds of miles of undefended road)?

    Can you comment on this Jeff? I have never seen/heard the precariousness of our position mentioned on TV (no surprise).

  4. Anonymous, the U.S. forces had to recently quit providing fuel to the Iraqi forces because of fuel tanker losses and the need to build up a stockpile of fuel for this "surge". It takes 2,000 fuel tankers PER DAY to provide enough fuel for normal operations of U.S. forces in Iraq. Fuel is the big achilles heel of the U.S. forces, every single U.S. vehicle in Iraq gets lousy gas mileage (from around 5mpg for the Humvees to 3 GALLONS PER MILE for the M1A1).

    And that 2,000 fuel tankers is for *NORMAL* operations, not for combat operations. Combat operations can as much as double fuel requirements.

    In short, logistics are *already* strained. The U.S. has about a month's worth of fuel and supplies currently stashed in Iraqi fuel depots, so if the supply lines get disrupted, they have enough fuel and ammo to fight their way to Kuwait (assuming they have enough fuel tankers stashed in Iraq too, which is a big assumption given that so many fuel tankers have been blown up these past three years). If all else fails, they can fight their way to the airstrips in the desert, which are easily controllable (any large forces approaching those airstrips over open desert can be blown to smithereens by air power) and then be airlifted out, albeit that would require abandoning their heavy equipment (immediately making the Iraqi Army the best armed army in the world, at least as long as they can scavenge sufficient spare parts to keep the gear running). But the logistical issue is why we cannot arm and field an effective Iraqi army of 370,000 soldiers as would be required to secure Iraq -- we simply don't have the logistical capability to provide them with much beyond AK-47's and bullets. Like I noted, we recently even cut off the *fuel* to the Iraqi Army because of lack of logistical capacity, thereby rendering them immobile and operationally useless. And the Iraqi Army can't build their own logistical supply chain because a) the Iraqi government is bankrupt and has no money to buy military equipment and supplies, and b) even if they had money to buy supplies, they have no trucks to haul the supplies with.

    This also explains why General Shensheki's requirement of 250,000 soldiers to occupy Iraq got him fired. Because he was basically saying, "we can't do it". Because the logistical capabilities to support 250,000 soldiers in Iraq on a long term basis simply are not there. We lack the logistical assets to do it, and there is no political will to fix that problem, because fuel tanker trucks and heavy airlifters aren't sexy, unlike fancy stealth fighter jets we don't need (the F-16 is the best fighter in the world in terms of operational capabilities and will remain so for the next 20 years).