(4 of 6)
For months, the generals opposed increasing troop strength, chiefly because they calculated that as long as the American footprint was growing, Iraqis would never take responsibility for their own security. This continues to concern them: a former military official told TIME that Defense Secretary Gates has spent a lot of time in his first three weeks on the job trying to wrest from his military planners clear benchmarks for putting the Iraqis in charge. The chiefs hinted they would back a surge only if the goals and the goalposts are explicit. "We would not surge without a purpose," said Army chief Peter Schoomaker. "And that purpose should be measurable."
The chiefs also complain that the surge seems to involve only guys with guns. There is a widespread feeling that the Pentagon has shouldered the entire load in Iraq while U.S. government agencies better suited for reorganizing political and economic systems have dropped the ball. Other agencies, most notably the State, Justice and Energy departments, lag in sending experts and advisers to help the Iraqis pull themselves together. Uniformed officers say they can pull off a surge, but it won't make any difference if there isn't a larger, government-wide strategy to mend the broken country.
But if the brass isn't keen on a surge, they also know a bargaining chip when they see one. While Rumsfeld was in charge, the Joint Chiefs were muffled, too scared to say boo in public if it meant crossing the civilian boss. But in early December, once Rumsfeld had resigned, the Army and Marine Corps chiefs increasingly went public with their long-standing gripes that Iraq has stretched their forces to the breaking point, damaging recruiting and diminishing readiness. Bush moved quickly to quell this startling revolt: within days he hinted that he might ask Congress to enlarge the overall size of the armed forces in the future. It will be years before the expanded forces are recruited, trained, equipped and in the field, so that change won't solve the problems a surge creates. But the generals seem to have prevailed on a demand that went nowhere while Rumsfeld was in charge.
How Long Could a Surge Be Sustained?
To create "the surge", Kagan and Keane proposed extending combat tours in Iraq to produce an additional 30,000 troops in Iraq over the next 18 months. Army tours would be lengthened from 12 to 15 months, and Marine deployments would stretch from seven to 12 months. A few additional combat brigades would be shipped over early to round out the reinforcements. There is no question that some units could pick up the pace. The Marines, after all, still station almost 20,000 troops in Okinawa.
Outgoing Centcom boss John Abizaid told a Senate panel in November that the U.S. "can put in 20,000 more Americans tomorrow and achieve a temporary effect." But he added that "the ability to sustain that commitment is simply not something we have right now with the size of the Army and the Marine Corps." Surge proponents quietly cheered the recent announcement that Abizaid is retiring. They believe that Abizaid and many of the Army's other top generals are locked in a post-Vietnam mentality that has them worrying more about the recruitment and retention required for an all-volunteer force than about fighting and winning wars.
What Happens When the Surge Ends?