Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lessons from invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq

Not long after the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan, troops of the Northern Alliance had Mohammed Omar surrounded. He managed to cut a deal and escape. At the time, the total number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan did not exceed 6,000. I had felt at the time that this was an insufficient number. I had wanted 20,000 to 40,000. I still feel to this day that if we had that many in Afghanistan at the time, Omar would not have gotten away. What happened in our next invasion did not make me any happier.

After the fall of the government of Iraq, looting was widespread. At the time, the U.S. had only 100,000 troops to ‘occupy’ a country of more than 28 million. I was surprised that the number of troops was so small, particularly after the invasion of Afghanistan demonstrated that we had underestimated the number required. I had felt that a minimum of 250,000 was necessary. The First Gulf war was fought with more than 300,000 U.S. troops. I still believe that if the U.S. had put 250,000 plus troops into Iraq we would not have seen the anarchy that was witnessed in the period after the fall of the Iraqi government.

Please note that this probably would not have changed what happened in Iraq over the next 3 to 5 years, because the U.S would probably have drawn down the number of troops shortly after order had been established. The subsequent ‘insurgency’ would probably have occurred anyway.

One main point that I want to emphasize is that in war, it is generally better to use too much force, rather than not enough. General Eisenhower once said that if he was told to take a hill that was defended by a company and he was given a battalion, he would take the hill. He would lose some men, but he could do it. Give him a division and he would not lose a man. Colin Powel called it ‘overwhelming force’. I suspect that the Obama administration believes that our enemies are only a VERY small minority of the total population of Muslims that have an ‘extremist’ view. Otherwise, he would realize that a great deal more force is required. In war, it is generally better to be safe than sorry. By making the assumption that our enemies are so weak in numbers our government appears to disagree with this axiom.

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