Paramilitary: February 11, 2005
The U.S. Army will be sending far fewer reservists to Iraq later this year, for the next one year rotation. There will be no National Guard, and fewer army reserve troops than there are now. The current rotation in Iraq is about 40 percent National Guard and reserve. Unless Congress officially declares war on someone, the current laws limits how long reservists can be called to active duty for the national emergency already declared. There are few reservists with any "legal time" left for active duty. Some in Congress are calling for a permanent increase in the size of the active duty army, but military commanders dont want that. The trend in the armed forces is fewer people, and the situation in Iraq is seen as temporary. The force of 150,000 troops (now being reduced to 135,000) is a small part of the million active duty and reserve troops available. Payroll costs are the biggest expense for the armed forces, and you cant make the troops more effective if you cant buy better equipment, and be able to afford more training.
When you take a close look at what is happening in Iraq, you see a situation that needs more trained, and well led, Iraqi police and soldiers, not more American troops. But that angle doesnt get the attention it deserves. Firefights and bombs going off is what grabs headlines, not American soldiers and marines training Iraqis to clean weapons or clear buildings of hostile gunmen. A lot of that training can be done by civilians (largely retired military people), but the American troops are still needed until there are enough Iraqis to get all of Saddams henchmen rounded up.
Meanwhile, the Department of Defense and Congress are trying to come up with some new rules for situations like Iraq. The reserves are there for a reason, but at the moment there is not universal agreement on exactly what that reason is.