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March 02, 2006

From One to Zero.

by Sgt. Rachel A. Brune</p>

<p>February 1, 2006</p>

<p>Iraqi troops of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Iraqi Army Division, pass in review during a transfer of authority ceremony Jan. 28 at Q-West Base Complex in northern Iraq.

Over at National Review's The Corner, John Derbyshire posted this:

FROM ONE TO ZERO [John Derbyshire]
"The only Iraqi battalion capable of fighting without U.S. support has been downgraded to a level requiring them to fight with American troops backing them up, the Pentagon said Friday. The battalion, made up of 700 to 800 Iraqi Army soldiers, has repeatedly been offered by the U.S. as an example of the growing independence of the Iraqi military. ... The battalion, according to the Pentagon, was downgraded from 'level one' to 'level two' after a recent quarterly assessment of its capabilities. 'Level one' means the battalion is able to fight on its own; 'level two' means it requires support from U.S. troops..."
Full story here. Posted at 01:11 PM

In case it's not obvious to you, or you don't follow The Corner, Derbyshire is *not* a fan of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Well, that's not right. John belongs to the "Smash and Run" school of the War on Terror, where you go in, kill people, break things, and leave a note saying "Stop what you're doing or we'll come back" and then come home and pass around the medals and get back to training for the next Punitive Expedition. He's unapologetic about it, which is fine. Such forthright honesty on the issue is refreshing, and if you accept his premise, that the problem of the Middle East has no practical external solution, his view fits neatly inside a self-defense premise - which in fact he lays out in a Corner post here.

I read the post and the way he posted it, and the article he references, as a simple form of "See, I told you so."

Me being me, as often as not disagreeing with Derb as agreeing with him, I decided to read the article and poke in the corners. Being a retired soldier and all, and having some idea of how these things work, I was looking for the whys, 'cuz I had a working hypothesis as to the backstory.

To me, applying all my biases to Derb's post, he was saying more or less, "See, I told ya it's not worth the effort. These guys can't hack it in any useful sense, without taking a lot more time than I support investing." Hey, he left it all open to interpretation and that's what I walked away with. I doubt he reads this space, so I don't expect a discussion with him on the subject, regardless.

I was looking for the 'whys' of the matter. It's one thing if it happened because of egregious battlefield failure or malfeasance. It's something else again if it is, well, self-inflicted so to speak, due to the nature of building an Army from scratch.

I found what I was looking for.

Though officials would not cite a specific reason for downgrading the unit, its readiness level has dropped in the wake of a new commander and numerous changes in the combat and support units, officials said. [emphasis mine]

The battalion is still deployed, and its status as an independent fighting force could be restored any day, Pentagon officials said. It was not clear where the battalion is operating within Iraq.

Heh. Thought so. The same thing happens in our Army when we reorganize units. In addition, you may well downgrade a unit after a change of command, from Fully Trained to Partially Trained, as the new command team settles in.

We're actually starting to implement a system, called Army Force Generation, or ARFORGEN for short, where we will cycle units deliberately into a status where they are non-deployable, during which time they will field new equipment, trainup on new doctrine, and assimilate new personnel as original personnel move on to schools, promotions, new units and assignments. In other words, we will regularize and schedule what appears to have happened to this Iraqi battalion.

A huge difference of course, is the Iraqi Army is not only engaged in a shooting war, as are we, but their training base is *also* in the middle of the war zone, too. Unlike ours. So, they get some hand-holding because they don't have the same security situation.

In the long run, history may show that Derb is correct in his view on the war. But I felt like he was taking a lazy shot downrange, and a little perspective, and context, might be in order.

In case you missed the link above - the article is here.