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More on military fatigue as Iraq elections approach and as chaos continues



Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, cordon off an area around the crater left by large car bomb which exploded near an entrance to the International Zone in Baghdad. (AP Photo/U.S. Army, Sgt. John Queen)

The administration is pushing the limits of soldier deployments and there’s no end in sight. Newsweek reports on the sorry state of affairs. Note that Joe Biden adds fuel to the fire started by Dianne Feinstein (see earlier post) regarding the administration being up front with the solidiers and the American people. He was on that same fact-finding trip.

…the elections may end up sucking U.S. troops deeper than ever into the morass. By Jan. 30 election officials want only Iraqis openly standing guard at the country’s polling places, with no U.S. forces in sight to upset voters. But insurgents are targeting Iraq’s security forces. Last week alone, attacks on police facilities in Ar Ramadi and Baghdad left at least 57 officers dead. Many cops on street patrol in Baghdad now wear masks to hide their identities. Without U.S. military backup, Iraqi security forces could be decimated on Election Day—dealing a drastic setback to the planned security handover that is vital to America’s exit strategy.

The Iraqis’ chief U.S. trainer insists he’s not worried. “There’s no shortage of recruits” despite the insurgent attacks, says Lt. Gen. David Petraeus. “We have more candidates than we have spaces.” Large numbers of new Iraqi forces will be deployed in the next few weeks, he promises. And he was elated by reports on Friday that Mosul cops succeeded at last in fighting off insurgent attacks at four police stations.

The administration’s critics say a U.S. troop buildup is long overdue. “We should have leveled with the American people to begin with—absolutely, positively necessary to do this four months ago, six months ago, eight months ago,” said Democratic Sen. Joe Biden on a visit to Baghdad last week. “If I sound like I’m angry, it’s because I am.” Even so, senior officers insist the boost is only temporary. Otherwise the Army is in for a desperate scramble. The brass is convinced that reneging on the “365 days” pledge would send re-enlistments plunging. And there simply are no remaining units stateside to replace those troops who are sent home.

***

Here’s an update on which countries are supplying military support in Iraq.

United States 150,000*

Britain 8,530

Albania 70

Australia 850

Azerbaijan 150

Bulgaria 455

Czech Rep. 92

Denmark 510

Dominican Rep. 300

El Salvador 360

Estonia 55

Georgia 150

Hungary 300

Italy 2,700

Japan 1,000

Kazakhstan 25

Latvia 120

Lithuania 105

Macedonia 28

Moldova 25

Mongolia 180

Netherlands 1,263

New Zealand 60

Nicaragua 115

Norway 150

Poland 2,400

Portugal 120

Romania 730

Singapore 200

Slovakia 105

South Korea 675 (3,000 on way)

Thailand 460

Tonga 44

Ukraine 1,700

Sources: Reuters news reports/GlobalSecurity.org.

* Planned troop level for Jan. 2005

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Pam Spaulding

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