…was this Times op-ed by Andy Krepinevich on the importance of getting more American advisers working with Iraqi security forces:
The United States has more than 130,000 troops in Iraq, 14 combat brigades in all. But as sectarian violence rages in Baghdad, it is increasingly clear that success or failure in this war does not rest solely, or even primarily, on the efforts of American combat troops. Rather, it lies in the hands of some 4,000 soldiers — the American officers and sergeants embedded as combat advisers in the new Iraqi security forces.
These advisers are the steel rods around which the newly poured concrete of the Iraq military will harden. They will determine whether President Bush can keep his pledge to “stand up” Iraqi forces so that American forces in Iraq can “stand down.” And it is the Iraqi military that will in turn play the crucial role in girding Iraq against the chaos that now threatens to engulf it.
Given the importance of the advisory effort, one might expect it to be a top priority for the Bush administration. But there are worrisome signs that this is not the case…
…The Iraqi Army’s ability to stem the violence will depend, as much as anything, on how well its American advisers perform. It is vital that we put our best people into this effort, in sufficient numbers and with sufficient resources to succeed.
This means doubling or, better still, tripling the number of advisers per battalion. To attract our best soldiers to serve as advisers, Army promotion boards must be instructed to give preference to those officers and sergeants who serve capably in this position.
Advisers should also be encouraged, through promotions and bonuses, to serve tours longer than the standard single year. Longer service enables the advisers and the Iraqis to develop strong bonds of trust, rather than building a new relationship every 12 months.
United States Army commanders in Iraq should demonstrate their commitment to the development of the Iraqi forces by fully including Iraqi commanders in their planning efforts, conducting combined missions with Iraqi units as a matter of course, and eliminating all unnecessary administrative burdens on the advisers.
Expanding the advisory effort is a winning strategy for everyone. By making the Iraqi military more effective, advisers can ultimately enable us to reduce the number of American soldiers deployed in Iraq. Those who are looking for signs of how well we are doing in this war and how soon our troops can begin to come home would do well to measure the progress of this small band of American soldiers. Their success will determine whether we win this war, at what cost, and how soon.