CNN is reporting that the 1st Brigade of the 82cd Airborne Division will soon deploy to Iraq because there is a an oncoming troop shortfall. Additionally the 3rd Brigade of the 82cd Airborne, currently deployed around Fallujah have been ordered to stay for another two months. This is because the National Guard brigades are still stuck in training for combat operations.
Now lets go to the analysis here. This is yet another signifier that things are going poorly in Iraq and that next year will not be pleasent either. Currently there are sixteen US brigade groups in Iraq. We are seeing some rotation into the country, for example the 3rd Brigade, 2cd Infantry Division (Stryker equipped) has just rotated into the country. The next rotation plan assumes that there will be 14 US brigades to provide security, and three of those will be National Guard brigades. If the US thought that 14 brigades was sufficient to provide security it would not be sending a fresh, rested and ready brigade that constitutes the mobile strategic reserve right now. This is yet another admission that we just simply do not have enough forces available to occupy Iraq.
Secondly, the recent report that stated that the Army would see 4 divisions declared combat incapable assumed that the 1st Brigade of the 82cd Airborne would be combat effective. The rest of the 82cd has been assumed to be combat ineffective as they will have been coming out of Iraq and Afganistan. Now this news of an extended deployment for the 3rd Brigade and the deployment of the 1st Brigade will push back the date by which the 82cd Airborne is combat effective by at least another 2 if not 4 months. Next summer the US Army will have the 3rd Infantry Division as the sole uncommitted combat ready unit available.
Thirdly, this will contine to play hell with retention as the 1st Brigade has already fought in Afganistan in 2002-03, the 3rd Brigade will be overseas for at least 8 months and everyone can read the writing on the wall. We are already seeing the Reserves experience general retention and recruitment difficulties. Why should soldiers who are leaving the US Army sign up for the Reserves or the Guard when they know that it is another guaranteed deployment.
As I have stated before the US could commit more troops to Iraq if we decided we did not want or need a strategic reserve, a functioning army or a functioning reserve system. Choose at least one. Well we are choosing to give up the strategic reserve and the reserve system is under strain. Let’s hope that we do not see a long term trifecta, but I will not put it pass the current reality that this is a distinct possibility.
Crossposted at Fester’s Place