Saturday, April 16, 2005
Almost a year after the commission to investigate the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, asserted the same thing, Americans in great numbers continue to cling to just the opposite belief. An ABC News poll conducted in March shows that 61 percent of the 1,001 adults surveyed think Iraq provided direct support to the al-Qaida terrorist group. Thirty percent say they did not. Ten percent reported they did not know.
In the same poll, 55 percent said the White House told what it believed to be true about intelligence in making the case for war against Iraq. Some 43 percent said it intentionally misled the public. ...
Levin released the documents in part because he is concerned the truth about pre-war intelligence may not ever be fully discovered or aired.
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., indicated in March he may not produce a report on the second phase of an investigation into pre-war intelligence, which he delayed undertaking last year until after the presidential election.
The second phase is meant to determine whether the White House exercised any political influence over the intelligence committee's findings with regard to Iraq.
It has long been the assertion of those opposing the Iraq war that the White House played on public fears and cherry-picked information that supported its case, ignoring information that did not. Phase II is also meant to look at whether the Pentagon's director of policy, Undersecretary Douglas Feith, used his Office of Special Plans to push hard-line interpretations of intelligence. With the nomination of a new director of national intelligence and the overhaul in the national intelligence structure, determining exactly whether and how the process broke down in the lead-up to the Iraq war is necessary to avoid repeating it. ...
... An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack on the American homeland, said one of the distinguished scientists who testified at the hearing, is one of only a few ways that the United States could be defeated by its enemies -- terrorist or otherwise. And it is probably the easiest. A single Scud missile, carrying a single nuclear weapon, detonated at the appropriate altitude, would interact with the Earth's atmosphere, producing an electromagnetic pulse radiating down to the surface at the speed of light. Depending on the location and size of the blast, the effect would be to knock out already stressed power grids and other electrical systems across much or even all of the continental United States, for months if not years. ...
Those who survived, he said, would find themselves transported back to the United States of the 1880s.
This threat may sound straight out of Hollywood, but it is very real. CIA Director Porter Goss recently testified before Congress about nuclear material missing from storage sites in Russia that may have found its way into terrorist hands, and FBI Director Robert Mueller has confirmed new intelligence that suggests al Qaeda is trying to acquire and use weapons of mass destruction. Iran has surprised intelligence analysts by describing the mid-flight detonations of missiles fired from ships on the Caspian Sea as "successful" tests. North Korea exports missile technology around the world; Scuds can easily be purchased on the open market for about $100,000 apiece.
A terrorist organization might have trouble putting a nuclear warhead "on target" with a Scud, but it would be much easier to simply launch and detonate in the atmosphere. No need for the risk and difficulty of trying to smuggle a nuclear weapon over the border or hit a particular city. Just launch a cheap missile from a freighter in international waters -- al Qaeda is believed to own about 80 such vessels -- and make sure to get it a few miles in the air.
Fortunately, hardening key infrastructure systems and procuring vital backup equipment such as transformers is both feasible and -- compared with the threat -- relatively inexpensive, according to a comprehensive report on the EMP threat by a commission of prominent experts. But it will take leadership by the Department of Homeland Security, the Defense Department, and other federal agencies, along with support from Congress, all of which have yet to materialize.
The Sept. 11 commission report stated that our biggest failure was one of imagination." No one imagined that terrorists would do what they did on Sept. 11. Today few Americans can conceive of the possibility that terrorists could bring our society to its knees by destroying everything we rely on that runs on electricity. But this time we've been warned, and we'd better be prepared to respond.
"... Insurgent attacks in this northern Iraqi city, which numbered more than 100 a week in mid-November, have declined by almost half, according to the military. Indirect attacks -- generally involving mortars or rockets -- on U.S. bases fell from more than 200 a month in December to fewer than 10 in March. Although figures vary from region to region, attacks also have declined precipitously in other parts of Iraq, creating a growing belief among U.S. commanders that the insurgency is losing potency.
'We are seeing a more stable environment,' said Lt. Col. Michael Gibler, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, which operates in eastern Mosul. 'Have we made a turn yet? No, but we're really close to it.'
The military attributes the decline to several factors, including Iraqis' increased willingness to provide information about insurgents and the growing presence of the new Iraqi security forces throughout the country.
But the main reason, military officials said, is a grinding counterinsurgency operation -- now in its 20th month -- executed by soldiers like Ruiz, a platoon sergeant in the 3rd Battalion's C Company. It is a campaign of endless repetition: platoons of American troops patrolling Iraqi streets on foot or in armored vehicles. Its inherent monotony is punctuated by moments of extreme violence.
'Our battles have been beyond ruthless,' said Ruiz, adding that he believes most Americans have little understanding of how the conflict is being fought.
'An urban counterinsurgency is probably the ugliest form of warfare there is,' said Capt. Rob Born, 30, the C Company commander. ..."
While fighting in an urban environment isn't new, Tucker said, the Abrams tank was designed for use in open areas, where most assaults were frontal. In Iraq, the enemy and their weapons are all around.
Improvised explosive devices — homemade bombs — and snipers are both problems for tankers, Tucker said. It takes a significant IED to destroy a tank, but they do get shot at and targeted.
Included in the latest upgrades are shields and better armor to help protect against those types of assaults.
The latest improvement is the tank urban survivability kit, or TUSK. TUSK includes several additions to the tank's armor and improved technology for inside the vehicles.
Reactive armor will be added to the vehicles' sides for better protection. Additional armor also will be placed at the rear of the tank.
Armor shields will be placed around the loader's hatch to give additional protection while the crew fires its M240 machine gun.
New technology such as thermal imaging, better communication systems and remote weapons stations will be added to allow tankers to control weapons and sight lines from inside the vehicle.
Some additions, such as a telephone on the outside of the tank that allows soldiers to talk to the crew inside, were on tanks 20 years ago but were taken off when the Army believed they were no longer necessary.
... Of the more than 1,100 tanks in use in Iraq, most have been hit, but only 1 percent — about 17— have been damaged enough they could not return to battle. It's a percentage that Tucker says is nearly insignificant to the total force.
The casualty count among tankers serving in Iraq also has been low, Tucker said.
There's no way to prevent every casualty during wartime, but the improvements to the tank can help. ...
A heavily armored mine-clearing vehicle with a robotic arm is allowing Army engineers to check suspicious items without calling out a full-fledged EOD team. Officially, the South African-acquired device is called the “mine protective clearance vehicle,” or MPCV. “But we just call it the Buffalo,” said Army 2nd Lt. David Swisher, a platoon leader with the 612th Engineer Battalion. ...
Army Col. Jim Brooks, commander of 3rd Infantry Division’s Maneuver-Enhancement Brigade, explained that enemy insurgents often plant fake IEDs to study how the coalition forces respond.
“They’re watching our techniques is what we think they’re doing, or trying to delay us while they do something down the road at another point,” Brooks said.
Sometimes the deliberate fakes even sport real initiators or blasting caps, Swisher noted. “(The insurgents) see how we react on site, and they learn what we scan and sometimes to see if we even notice,” he said. ...
The armored Buffalo saves lives because IEDs explode while they’re being inspected about 10 percent of the time. The heavy vehicle has provided strong protection from such blasts, even at close range. ...
“These vehicles have been hit several times -- small-arms fire, grenades, artillery shells, you name it,” he said. “Everything’s happened to these vehicles. Windows have been shattered but not compromised. Tires have all been deflated, gouges in the armor, exhaust system replaced.
“And no one inside the Buffalo has ever been hurt,” he added. ...
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- An important Sunni cleric urged Iraq's new president Friday to buck U.S. pressure and free thousands of suspected rebels, a sign the religious group most often associated with the Iraqi insurgency might be willing to work with the new government.
But there was no letup in violence, as militants set off four bombs that killed at least two civilians and wounded 14 in Baghdad, capping a bloody week of attacks and clashes. ...
If President "Jalal Talabani wants to begin a new page, he must first release those in jail. Secondly, there must be a full pardon," Ahmed Abdul Ghafour al-Samarrai, a cleric in the influential Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars, said during Friday prayers. ...
bth: If you look at these comments, the 100 person hostage taking that is occurring now by Sunnis, and the recent attack on the prison, one wonders if the Sunni's have reached a point where they must get prisoners released to maintain the current pace of activity.
The U.S. Army is short of armored Humvees in Iraq and Afghanistan in part because almost one of every five of the Indiana-made work trucks has been damaged in combat or worn out in harsh terrain.
A supplemental appropriation measure proposed Thursday by Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., would include cash for replacing 1,500 armored Humvees destroyed in those two countries.
Shedding light on the number of damaged armored Humvees could further the controversy over U.S. war planning.
Even as insurgents in Iraq focused attacks on the hundreds of conventional Humvees built of thin sheet metal, Pentagon planners ordered fewer of the reinforced steel- and Kevlar-plated models than the factories could produce.
U.S. troops now operate about 7,100 of the protective trucks in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Army now says it wants 9,900 on duty in both countries, up from the goal of 8,100 set several months ago, Bayh said.
The attrition figure appears to be one of the first public estimates of armored Humvee losses since nearly 150,000 U.S. troops entered Iraq in March 2003.
Bayh, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the attrition figure was supplied by officials at the Pentagon.
Bayh's proposal overall would commit $742 million for 3,300 additional Humvees fully equipped with armor, communications gear and weaponry.
A recent Government Accountability Office study singled out the U.S. Department of Defense for pacing armored Humvee production at a level below the factory's maximum capacity.
Defense strategists have been assailed by congressional members -- including Bayh -- for repeatedly failing to place orders for as many armored models as can be produced.
"They never inquired into the production capacity," Bayh said. The Pentagon nine times has raised its goal for armored Humvees in Iraq.
John Pike, head of Global Security.org, a think tank in Washington, said he has not seen a figure on damaged Humvees.
But losing 1,500 armored Humvees appears to be a credible figure, he said. Added to the 7,100 protective models now in use, it works out to a vehicle casualty rate of about 17 percent.
''I would believe that," Pike said, noting it could be a larger proportion. "They've been driving them pretty good in a pretty stressful situation."
An estimated 400 U.S. troops have died in attacks on armored and unarmored Humvees.
All Humvees are assembled in Mishawaka by 1,000 employees of AM General Corp. Those slated for protective coating are armored at Cincinnati by the O'Gara-Hess & Eisenhardt unit of Armored Holdings Corp.
Call Star reporter Ted Evanoff at (317) 444-6019.
[bth: this is the first public report of the attrition rate of 1 in 5 vehicles. I had previously heard privately that the attrition rate was 7-10 times normal instead of the 4 times normal published. This is the first quanitification of the aggregate number of attrited humvees. Ted Evanoff is the first reporter to realize that the plants were not at capacity, in contradiction to repeated statements from the DoD from late 2003 to very recently.]
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Some congressional members including Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., repeatedly chided top Pentagon officials last year for not stepping up orders of the armored models used as the workhorse in urban war zones.
'As this study shows, the companies producing armored Humvees made it clear that they could increase their production levels and provide our troops with the vehicles they needed faster than what the Pentagon was ordering. Sen. Bayh had to inform Army officials of this fact more than once himself,' said Bayh spokeswoman Meghan Keck. 'It is tragic that the Pentagon failed to take advantage of this capability as quickly as they should have.'
GAO auditors noted they were not able to find out why the Army paced production. The report also assailed the military for what it called erratic budgeting for the armored version. ..."
By last fall, the target was 8,100 armored Humvees in Iraq. AM General can make more than 16,000 Humvees a year, while O'Gara-Hess has scaled up armoring rates to 500 vehicles a month. Both companies have said publicly they could produce higher volumes than the military had requested, a point confirmed in the GAO report.
Referring to the U.S. Department of Defense, the report says "DOD decision makers determined the pace at which both uparmored HMMWVs and kits would be produced but did not inform Congress about the total available production capacity.
We have not been able to determine what criteria were used to set the pace; however, in both cases, additional production capacity was available, particularly for the kits. ..."
"TRENTON: Some 1,750 bulletproof vests collected by New Jersey law enforcement agencies have been packed for shipment to Iraq, where they will be used to protect U.S. soldiers riding in military vehicles."
"FRANKFORT A Kentucky National Guard unit is getting new equipment and training following a soldier's death and complaints from a veteran sergeant.
Army officials say the older model trucks used by the 2113th Transportation Company are getting better armor and bulletproof glass. Some soldiers unit will be driving newer vehicles that have updated armor while kits are sent to add protection to the older models.
Army officials say the vehicles should all have updated armor and glass by the end of August. ..."
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
National Security Notes - UK TERROR TRIAL FINDS NO TERROR: Not guilty of conspiracy to poison London with ricin
"The trial of the infamous "UK poison cell," a group portrayed by Secretary of State Powell as al Qaida-associated operatives plotting to launch ricin attacks in the United Kingdom and in league with Muhamad al Zarqawi in Iraq, found nothing of the sort. The jury did find "the UK poison cell," known as Kamel Bourgas and others (Sidali Faddag, Samir Asli, Mouloud Bouhrama, Mustapha Taleb, Mouloud Sihali, Aissa Kalef), not guilty of conspiracy to murder by plotting ricin attacks and, generally speaking, not guilty of conspiracy to do anything. Kamel Bourgas had been previously convicted of murder of a British policeman in an unpublicized trial.
"Months earlier and behind the scenes, the British government had seen its claims, that the group had the capability to produce ricin and that materials on a ricin recipe found in their belongings could be linked to al Qaida, rupture. And equally startling, it was confirmed that a preliminary positive finding of the poison in a residue tested in a raid on their apartment in Wood Green in January of 2003 was false but that through bureaucratic bungling, just the opposite news was presented to British authorities. ...
"At the time of Colin Powell's presentation to the UN Security Council, expert sources in this matter within the UK government surely knew that no ricin had been recovered from the Wood Green group of alleged terrorists, men included by the Secretary of State as part of the US government's rationale for going to war with Iraq. Whether Powell, the Bush administration or U.S. intelligence also knew is unknown. Whatever the case, it was another example of the United States' horrendous intelligence on weapons of mass destruction. ...
"The "UK poison cell" defendants were on trial for six months. In the British anti-terror sweep that netted them, there were 90 arrests. Nine people were charged and none have been convicted. Kamel Bourgas was justifiably convicted of a dastardly murder of a police officer during the raid in which he was taken into custody. But that murder was not terrorism.
Bourgas has also been convicted of conspiring to cause a public nuisance.
The notes on purported poison schemes were, apparently, the creation and property of Bourgas, not others lumped in with him. And a second terror trial, planned to start after the Bourgas case, will be short-circuited according to the prosecution since there is even less evidence for it.
It is no longer a surprise when one finds that many claims from the alleged best of American government intelligence in the war on terror are bogus. It is still dismaying, though, to see intelligence derived from materials submitted in the alleged trial of the "UK poison cell" that is so patently rotten. Who was informing Colin Powell on the nonsense before his date with the UN Security Council?
There was no UK poison cell linked to al Qaida or Muhamad al Zarqawi. There was no ricin with which to poison London, only notes and 22 castor seeds. There was no one who even knew how to purify ricin.
However, the mythology on the UK poison cell will probably always be with us. In only one example of many, a United Nations investigative arm published a report in February 2005 with the claim that an al Qaida "associated" group had come close to launching a poison attack in the United Kingdom before being arrested. (Source: Milton Leitenberg, "Assessing the Biological Weapons and Bioterrorism Threat," advance copy of a paper prepared for international conference, "Meeting the Challenges of Bioterrorism," April 22-23, 2005, Furigen, Switzerland).
The news was too terrible and repeated too often to easily replace as common wisdom. Indeed, there will be many convinced that justice was not served, that a poison plot was foiled and that convictions would have been certain if only the -right- evidence had been presented and taken seriously. They will think that the case of Bourgas and others was a defeat in the global war on terror.
Others, however, will view it as a victory, an affirmation that specious intelligence, fear, stupidity and suspicions cannot forever trample on reality.
Monday, April 11, 2005
The agency found the Defense Department spent more than $60 billion supplying troops with 2 million tons of equipment, spare parts and other items before, during and after major combat operations in Iraq from October 2002 to September 2004.
"Despite these expenditures, there have been widespread reports of serious shortages of critical items needed by U.S. troops," the report (GAO-05-275) stated.
Specifically, GAO cited shortages of batteries, tires, vehicle track shoes, body armor, meals ready to eat (MREs), Humvees with extra armor, and add-on armor kits for Humvees.
Auditors found that those items were not available for five reasons that it called "systematic supply system deficiencies."
Those deficiencies were:
- Inaccurate and inadequate funding of Army war reserve requirements. Auditors found that the Army has not fully funded its war reserve supplies for years, and even today, only about 24 percent of those reserves are funded.
Inaccurate supply forecasts. Army computer models used to forecast supply levels during peacetime did not have a mechanism for forecasting needs during a war. As a result, managers had to make manual forecasts that were often inaccurate due to unreliable data.
Insufficient and delayed funding. Officials at the Army Materiel Command often asked for more money to move more supplies to the theater, but the funding was delayed.
Acquisition delays. Some items were in short supply because vendors lacked key production materials or because long lead times were needed to produce them. For example, a lack of key materials was cited as the reason in delays in manufacturing body armor.
An ineffective distribution system. Auditors found improper packaging of air shipments, insufficient supply and transportation personnel, and poor tracking systems in Iraq.
GAO said the military services have taken several steps since the war began to improve supply chain operations. Auditors said a key step was assigning the U.S. Transportation Command to be the sole Defense agency responsible for supply chain management.
[bth: the commentary doesn't do the report justice. The report is scathing by bureaucratic terms, words like lack of transparency in reporting to Congress and "failure" are key words throughout the this document. The consequence is that hundreds are dead and thousands injured because of a basic dereliction of duty within the procurement process and lack of leadership and integrity at the top of the Dept. of Defense. Download the GAO report. Read it and weep.]
'He's going from brush pile to brush pile just like a wet rat,' said Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, whose 1st Marine Expeditionary Force is back home at Camp Pendleton, Calif., after months of intense combat in Anbar province. 'I believe he possibly slid back into the Anbar area, possibly the hinterlands.' "
Gen. Sattler, who commanded operations in the region, said in an interview with The Washington Times that the U.S.-led coalition has forced Zarqawi to work "independently" by killing or capturing his first- and second-string lieutenants.
Zarqawi fled the Anbar region before his base in Fallujah was captured by a Marine-Army force in November. He operated in northern Iraq until he was pressed back to western Iraq, but this time in isolated frontier country.
... The interim also showed Gen. Sattler that he could not build an Iraqi security force in Anbar made up of local Sunni Muslims. Their loyalties were with family and tribe, not with the emerging democracy. As a result, the U.S. command took down the national guard and built up 10 battalions in Anbar of Iraqis from other regions. A "very small" percentage are Anbar Sunnis, Gen. Sattler said.
About 500 members of Iraq's police and army swept through buildings in the Rashid neighborhood along with a 'couple hundred' American soldiers, detaining 65 suspected militants, Lt. Col. Clifford Kent of the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division said. "
Sunday, April 10, 2005
410 Total deaths in military vehicles hit by explosives, including bombs, grenades and improvised explosive devices (IEDs)
260 Deaths in vehicle explosions attributed to IEDs
115 Deaths in armored and unarmored humvees hit by any type of explosives
Fatality information was culled from the U.S. Department of Defense; icasualties.org, which tracks Iraq casualties; news media accounts; and reporters' interviews. In some cases it could not be learned whether vehicles were armored. Vehicle fatality numbers are conservative approximations; details of many deaths were not available.
© 2005 Philadelphia Inquirer and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.http://www.philly.com
When the Marines went to Iraq a year ago to help quell the insurgency, they got a nasty surprise.
They needed to shield their vehicles. But the only armor available was too thin, and designed primarily for stopping bullets, not roadside bombs.
So the Corps wound up doing armor a little differently from the Army. Along the way, they got a little help from friends in the neighborhood: the Israelis.
The story of the Marine Corps effort to protect its troops in Iraq runs parallel to the Army story. But as often happens, the Marines plotted their own course.
In Iraq, they needed to armor a vehicle fleet about a sixth the size of the Army's. They wanted the 3/8-inch-thick armor plate the Army was buying, but none was available on the market.
They decided that some protection was better than none. So they bought the 3/16th-inch steel they could get, bolted it to their vehicles, and set out to replace it all with stronger steel as soon as they could.
The Marines got some armor onto all their vehicles almost a year quicker than the Army - and not just on humvees, but on trucks.
By March 2004, when the First Marine Expeditionary Force began assisting the Army in combatting the insurgency, all its vehicles at least had armor sheets bolted to the doors.
The Army, which for months delayed its decision to armor trucks, would not manage to get all its Iraq vehicles armored until this February - and like the Marines, still doesn't have top-grade armor on many vehicles.
The Army has outdone the Marines in one way. It is now ahead of the Marines in putting on factory-made humvee kits to replace the crude cut-steel plates used initially. The Marine Corps says it will need until late this year to achieve that goal.
Both military services continue working to apply improved armor kits to trucks.
The Marines give the Army credit for lending them many fully armored humvees, sharing initial designs for a humvee armor kit and providing armor testing.
While neither the Army nor Marines would comment on each other's performance, Col. Sue Schuler, program manager for Marine Corps Systems Command, suggested that the Marine Corps, which is a third the size of the Army, has less bureaucracy.
"We are able to cut through the B.S.," Schuler said.
Yet the Marines, at times, worked ground that the Army had already plowed. In the case of its armor kits for humvees, it took a basic Army design and reworked it. In the end, the Marines fell behind in getting the kits on their humvees.
"We offered to help them, and they said no," said retired Army Gen. Paul Kern, who until November headed Army Materiel Command.
When it came to truck kits, the Marines reached beyond American borders to get help from an Israeli firm, Plasan Sasa, that had plenty of experience in protecting Israeli Defense Forces' vehicles from bomb attacks.
In September, Oshkosh Trucking Co., of Oshkosh, Wis., maker of the Marines Corps' main truck, won a 15-month, $204 million contract to supply 920 armored trucks for Marines in Iraq.
The armoring portion of the job was delegated to Armor Holdings, an American company, which in turn subcontracted $100 million of the work to Plasan Sasa in Israel.
Plasan executive Dan Ziv, while giving a reporter a tour of the plant in Kibbutz Sasa, Israel, said he knew the moment America went to war in Iraq that U.S. troops "would need better armor."
"We knew the problems they would face because of our daily experience in south Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza," said Ziv, 53, citing Israel's military occupation of those lands and the deadly skirmishes with Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian guerillas.
The U.S. military calls roadside bombs "improvised explosive devices" or IEDs. To Israelis, Ziv said, such devices are all too familiar.
"Ten years ago, when we talked about roadside bombs, no one knew what we were talking about. Now everyone talks about IEDs."
Contact Tom Infield at 610-313-8205 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted on Sun, Apr. 10, 2005
Special Report: Waiting for Armor How U.S. failed GIs
Although the Army is working to upgrade the armor on all its vehicles in Iraq, many soldiers are still without adequate protection.
By Joseph Tanfani, Tom Infield, Carrie Budoff and Edward ColimoreInquirer Staff Writers
When roadside bombs began killing American soldiers in Iraq, the Pentagon promised to run factories around the clock until they had enough armored vehicles.
But that didn't happen. And nearly two years and hundreds of dead and maimed soldiers later, many troops are still riding dangerous roads in Iraq without adequate armor on their vehicles.
Though the Army says all of its 35,000 vehicles on the roads of Iraq now have some sort of armor, 11,700 of them are protected with nothing more than crudely cut sheets of steel - inadequate by the Army's own standards, according to figures released Friday.
The Army intends to replace that armor, but the Pentagon says that job won't be done for five months. And the Army said Friday that combat commanders have now requested 4,000 more armored humvees and trucks.
"It just seems like it is too little, too late for these boys," said Lee Woodliff of Punta Gorda, Fla., whose son Michael, 22, was killed by a bomb a year ago in an unarmored humvee.
Just last week, a Kentucky National Guard soldier died when shrapnel came through the window of his truck. A comrade says James A. Sherrill, 27, could have been saved if antiballistic glass had been installed.
Staff Sgt. Brad Rogers e-mailed home: "Our command is saying that they are working on this issue, but I don't think they are working fast enough."
Since May 1, 2003, when the United States declared an end to major combat operations, attacks on vehicles have accounted for as many as 40 percent of the 1,037 deaths of soldiers attributed to hostile action, an analysis of Pentagon information shows.
Production and delivery of more armor, faster, might have saved lives. That conclusion is shared by soldiers, Pentagon analysts, even generals.
Why didn't it happen?
Military leaders have blamed everything from steel shortages to America's industrial decline.
But the shortage had more to do with Pentagon missteps than any lack of industrial capacity, according to an Inquirer review of documents and interviews with officers, soldiers, analysts and industry officials.
Today, its former procurement chief says the Army could have moved faster. "I would call it a success story, but it took too long to materialize," said retired Gen. Paul Kern, who headed Army Materiel Command until November.
"In retrospect, if I had it to do all over, I would have just started building up-armored humvees," he said. "The most efficient way would have been to build a single production line and feed everything into it."
Instead, Kern says, the Army went "piecemeal."
In a study completed in February, the Defense Department faulted itself: "Clearly, in some cases, such as ballistic armor for tactical vehicles, the department did not recognize the problem early enough to ensure adequate supply."
Armor did arrive - eventually. An alarmed Congress earmarked a total of $4 billion, and in 18 months, a military that had long resisted the notion of armoring noncombat vehicles put at least some armor on 35,000 humvees and trucks in Iraq. The military managed this in a procurement system in which four years is seen as quick turnaround.
Even so, The Inquirer found a record of missed chances to protect soldiers, and of unlearned lessons from previous conflicts:
Pentagon planners first called for more armored vehicles a decade ago, saying that the lessons of the "Black Hawk Down" ambush and the Bosnia conflict were that all soldiers would be targets in a new era of warfare. But the proposals got short shrift; few armored humvees were built, and no armored trucks.
For more than a year, as the toll in Iraq mounted, officials said armor production was running flat out. At Christmas, the Army's sole humvee supplier took its usual week off. The armoring plant had two four-day weekends. Owners say they could have built more - if the Army had ordered more.
The decline of steel and other heavy U.S. industry was not the main obstacle. For example: Most steel for the armor comes from the ISG steel firm's plant in Conshohocken. But ISG says it rarely got enough armor orders to run at full capacity. "Over the course of the last year we could have made a lot more," said Gary P. Sarpen, the plant manager.
The Army's own depots took a similar stop-and-start approach, making armor kits full tilt at times but then stopping as they waited weeks or months for new orders. "I don't think any of them was ever producing at their maximum capacity consistently," says Kern.
The military did not expect a fight after Baghdad fell, and, even as the sneak attacks grew in frequency and ferocity, the Army expected the insurgency to fizzle and the troops to start coming home. That meant the Army was slower to put in orders for more armored vehicles, and industry, in turn, was slower to add capacity.
The Army still hasn't fully shielded its cargo trucks. Its analysts had warned of risks to these targets, and designed add-on armor kits before the war - but the Army didn't start making truck armor until last year. It won't be done until fall, officials say.
Military officials say they worked to untangle knots in the supply chain, knowing the real price.
"I saw the result of this every day in the letters I had to sign to families, in the funerals I had to attend in Arlington, in the soldiers I visited in Landstuhl and Walter Reed hospitals," said Les Brownlee, the former acting secretary of the Army, who left in December.
"I had meeting after meeting about it and clubbed people, but I can't believe they weren't doing the best they could," he said. "There wasn't anybody taking a bureaucratic approach to this, I promise you."
To be sure, armor is no guarantee of safety. As more armor arrived, insurgents devised bigger bombs - some packed with ball bearings or other projectiles that can penetrate steel. Also, experts note, there's much more to protecting troops than cocooning them in steel. Radio jammers, even robots have been used to thwart bombs. But no one disputes armor's value.
"It could mean the fact that we can save a soldier's life," Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sorenson said at a press briefing in December, "if we can get some of these vehicles sooner there to theater, whether it's a day, a week or two weeks."
The pace of providing armor has mystified and angered soldiers' families as well as many in Congress, who pushed for more than a year to get faster action.
Rep. Robert Simmons (R., Conn.) says the military has called armor a "top priority" since November 2003.
"Our troops in the field continue not to have the very basic steel plate that they need on every vehicle to be safe," said Simmons, a Vietnam veteran. "Why is that? What went wrong?"
Bosnia, Somalia: 'Lessons unlearned'
The answers begin more than a decade ago.
For Army commanders, the "up-armored" humvee has always been a kind of unwanted stepchild. The humvee - HMMWV, or High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle - was first designed as a kind of bigger, tougher jeep for rear areas. It can carry a half-dozen troops and a heavy machine gun or grenade-launcher.
The factory-armored humvee, known as the M1114, was first built by O'Gara-Hess & Eisenhardt, a small plant just north of Cincinnati.
Prototypes were built in 1992 and flown to Mogadishu, Somalia - but too late for troops who rode unarmored humvees in the "Black Hawk Down" ambush that left 18 of them dead. "In essence, it was built because those soldiers died," said Jim Mills, a former Army program manager who worked on up-armoring the humvees.
But they got short shrift amid lean budget years and high-tech combat systems, even after Mogadishu. "I call them lessons unlearned," Mills said.
In the 1990s, a few up-armored humvees were built for scouts and military police.
In Bosnia, Douglas Callicotte and two other MPs were riding in one in 1997 when a mine blast lifted the five-ton vehicle off the ground and shredded its motor. Everyone thought the blast was fatal - until three bruised MPs climbed out.
"I wouldn't be alive if I was riding in a regular humvee," said Callicotte, who is now a car rental manager in Phoenix. "I don't know why the Army didn't invest more in them."
Generals saw them as too slow. To this day, they cite Serbian troops' 1999 capture of three U.S. soldiers in an armored humvee. "The M1114 has not really been... loved nor desired by the Army," Sorenson said in an interview. "Because (A) the incident in Bosnia. And (B) it was not determined there was a need for it."
But one of the former captives disputes that bit of Army lore.
Christopher Stone, now a Michigan National Guard lieutenant, says the armored humvee was somewhat slow, but that's not why it was captured. Stone says it lost power after Serb soldiers raked it with gunfire.
He thinks the armor saved him: "If it had been the other type of humvee, it seems to me the rounds would have gone through."
New war, new jargon: Killed by an IED
The Army first had just 235 armored humvees in Iraq. Planners did not expect a long, bloody occupation. Loren Thompson, a defense analyst, recalls an upbeat briefing on Iraq reconstruction with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the joint chiefs of staff: "The one thing missing was the enemy."
As the invasion ended and the occupation began, humvees - smaller, more nimble than tanks or armored personnel carriers - got more use.
Three weeks after President Bush's May 1, 2003, "Mission Accomplished" speech on an aircraft carrier, a bomb exploded on a road near Baghdad, hitting an unarmored humvee as it escorted a convoy. The blast wounded three troops and killed Pfc. Jeremiah Smith, 25, of Odessa, Mo., a father of two girls.
It was one of the first of many attacks using crude, remotely detonated bombs - in military parlance, improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. Sorenson says, "No one, no one, predicted in the insurgency a potential" to use this tactic so widely.
From the supply side, officials said, the problem was that the armor "requirement" - what combat commanders asked for - went up in small jumps, over months, forcing them to chase a moving target.
By the time Brownlee decided that the Army needed a total of 8,105 factory-armored humvees in Iraq, the insurgency was 15 months old. And on Friday, the Army said it needed more, pushing the total past 10,000.
"I'm going to get my ass in trouble, [but] the real challenge is, there had always been an assumption, quite frankly, that the requirements would continue to tail off," said Gary J. Motsek, director of support operations for the Army Materiel Command in Fort Belvoir, Va.
By August 2003, commanders wanted more armored humvees. The goal went to 1,200, then 1,400. Because those requests were relatively modest, the Army chose to simply gather in armored humvees from bases around the world.
The IED deaths mounted.
Pfc. John D. Hart, 20, of Bedford, Mass., called his father on Oct. 11, 2003. "He was whispering into the phone, the insurgency was moving his way," said Brian Hart. "He thought he was going to be hit, and he was totally exposed in his vehicle."
A week later, Hart's thin-skinned humvee was hit by gunfire and grenades. He was killed, as was his lieutenant, David Bernstein, 1997 valedictorian at Phoenixville High School in Chester County.
Brian Hart couldn't believe that armored humvees couldn't be built any faster. He quit his drug-company job and started digging into the issue full time.
His advocacy helped propel Congress into action.
Though the Army told "congressmen and the troops that the plants were running 24/7," he said, "at not one time were those plants running full out."
The 'sad story' of sole sourcing
When it came time to mass-produce armored humvees, the Army had one place to turn: the O'Gara plant in Ohio, owned by Armor Holdings of Florida.
The humvee's maker, AM General in Indiana, builds the chassis and sends it to O'Gara, where workers replace canvas and thin metal with hard steel and antiballistic glass.
The contract was "sole source." The Army, with little interest in this work before Iraq, did not shop for other suppliers - even after O'Gara paid a $1 million fine in 2000 to settle a "whistle-blower" lawsuit over defective welds.
"It's a sad story to report to you, but had we known then what we know now, we would probably have gotten another source involved," Pentagon acquisition chief Michael Wynne testified to Congress a year ago.
The need became urgent.
"Every day, our soldiers are killed or wounded in Iraq - by IEDs, RPGs, small-arms fire. Too many of these attacks are on HMMWV's that are not up-armored," the Army's Brownlee wrote on Oct. 20, 2003. "While we may already be expediting up-armored HMMWVs... we are directing that all measures to provide protection to our soldiers be placed on a top priority, most highly urgent 24/7 basis."
The memo went out to humvee suppliers. On Friday morning, a copy was still on the bulletin board at the ISG steel plant in Conshohocken.
But 24/7 didn't quite happen. Until January, the ISG plant had capacity that the Army never consistently used, says Sarpen, the plant's general manager.
In November 2003, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D., Mass.) grilled Brownlee about armor delays, noting that three Massachusetts troops had died in unarmored humvees: "Are they running their plant 24 hours?"
Brownlee said the O'Gara plant in Ohio was running at "maximum capacity."
But it wasn't. Army documents show that monthly armor production at O'Gara fell after that - from about 55 to 45 humvees, in December.
By early 2004, O'Gara officials were telling members of Congress that they could armor vehicles much faster - if they had a commitment to buy them.
Rep. Simmons says he toured the plant a year ago and found their antiballistic-glass operation working just one shift, "so they obviously weren't at capacity."
O'Gara spokesman Michael Fox declined to discuss details, but said, "There's no doubt if you knew on day one you would need 8,000 [armored humvees], you would have done things differently."
Fox says the plant "would have ordered all the steel it needed at one time. It would have hired all employees it needed at once."
The Army's Brownlee visited the O'Gara plant in February 2004, and struck a deal: If the plant ramped up to 450 armored humvees a month, he would find money to buy them.
But there was still reluctance to have O'Gara go flat out.
Former Army Comptroller Dov Zakheim says the worry was that O'Gara, in stepping up production, would get sloppy: "People would have said, 'Look at the Department of Defense, wasting all this money.' "
Scrounging for armor - in the defense budget
When O'Gara couldn't armor humvees fast enough, the Army decided to try to quickly get a kit - steel doors and antiballistic glass - made at its own depots, a nationwide system of factories left over from World War II.
The Army has three levels of armor. Level 1 is a brand-new, factory-made humvee. The factory-made kits are known as Level 2, with thick steel doors and antiballistic windows, shipped to the combat zone and added to trucks or humvees. Some of these have floor armor, some not - an important difference because nearly three dozen troops in vehicles have been killed by blasts from below, records show.
Level 3 is a temporary fix and offers the slimmest protection: steel cut from sheets and hung or bolted on.
At the Army's own depots, Motsek says, managers bent procurement rules to make kits faster.
"Normally, in acquisitions programs, you do it in six and eight years, that is considered a success story," he says. "This was done in a matter of months." He calls criticism of the pace of production "a cheap shot."
But even at the depots, the effort was bedeviled by funding gaps and cautious, incremental orders. One issue: While Congress was throwing money at the armor problem, the Army didn't always spend it quickly. The Army says it had to get budget approvals - creating, at times, weeks of delay.
It wasn't until December 2003 that the Army came up with money for a large order of humvee armor kits.
When the orders arrived, crews sweated to crank them out. At Letterkenny Army Depot in Chambersburg, Pa., an armor crew worked around the clock from Jan. 4, 2004, to April 27 with one day off - Easter, said Col. Bill Guinn, Letterkenny commander.
But in spring of 2004, Letterkenny and the other depots significantly slowed their armoring kits lines. Why? Orders tailed off. The depots had built what the Army had requested, about 8,900 kits. An additional 1,000 were built over the summer.
In August, the Army decided it needed almost 4,000 more kits - but again, two months passed as the Army scrounged for the money.
The armoring lines at Letterkenny didn't start moving again until December. Now, they are making armored cabs for five-ton Army trucks - but are not slated to be done until August.
The army you have: Rumsfeld's firestorm
The armor issue entered a new age on Dec. 8 when a Tennessee soldier, Thomas Wilson, stood up and asked Rumsfeld why his unit had to scrounge for scrap armor.
Rumsfeld said the military was addressing this problem. But part of his answer - "you go to war with the army you have" - created a firestorm.
Things changed in a hurry, starting at O'Gara. The company had reached its goal of 450 armored humvees a month by September, and announced that it could add capacity.
When Rumsfeld said armored humvees couldn't be built any faster, O'Gara officials told reporters they actually could build 100 more a month.
That was news to the Army, said Sorenson and others. But records and interviews show that O'Gara had been saying months earlier that it could push production faster.
The next day, the Army agreed to fund a faster production rate, to 550 armored humvees a month. That is what O'Gara is producing now.
The ISG plant in Conshohocken got the message, too. "That was the most intense part of armor production that we saw in the past year and a half," ISG's Sarpen said. "It got very heavy, very fast."
The calls came from contractors, not from the Pentagon, he said. Suppliers feared being labeled "the next company that 'couldn't produce the armor quicker,' " Sarpen said.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon formed a task force to get Navy and Air Force machinists and welders working on armor in Iraq. It is headed by an Air Force general who reports to Rumsfeld twice a week.
Bryan Whitman, a Rumsfeld spokesman, said Friday: "The Secretary of Defense does not decide how much or when the Army buys its equipment."
Snags persisted. Two days after the Rumsfeld episode, Rep. Gene Taylor (D., Miss.) said he visited the Rock Island, Ill., arsenal and found just three people working on armor - two cutting steel, one welding.
AM General, the Indiana humvee maker, closed from Christmas to Jan. 2. That break, routine in the auto industry, is in union contracts, the company said.
O'Gara's humvee line also halted for two four-day holiday weekends. The plant was shutting down when a reporter visited in early afternoon on Dec. 30, and was closed all day Dec. 31.
At peak production, the humvee line runs two 10-hour shifts, five days a week, but not weekends. The line "doesn't run 24 hours a day," Fox said. Nonetheless, he said, O'Gara was "several hundred vehicles ahead of [Army] contract requirements."
On Feb. 17, Rumsfeld told Congress that "with very few exceptions" no unarmored vehicle would enter Iraqi danger zones.
But many vehicles labeled "armored" by Rumsfeld are at Level 3, with a few steel plates, cut in the field and bolted or latched on. Many still don't have antiballistic glass. Upgrading all of them will take months.
By September, the Pentagon aims to have all vehicles in Iraq sheathed in better armor.
Rogers, the Kentucky National Guard sergeant who wrote the e-mail from Iraq about Sgt. Sherrill's death, said his men would be riding the same roads yesterday with only "hillbilly armor" - steel panels on two sides of their trucks.
"I think this is something the public needs to know," he wrote. "Most of all, please continue to pray for us."
Contact Joseph Tanfani at 215-854-2684 or email@example.com. Staff writer Alletta Emeno and news researchers Denise Boal and Frank Donahue contributed to this article.
Contrary to the premise of USA TODAY's article "Army late with orders for armored Humvees," the Army moved decisively to provide more up-armored vehicles to our Soldiers in Iraq (News, Cover story, March 28).
[bth: Michael Moss from the NYT published an article in March 05 using documents obtained from the Inspector General’s office via FOIA. The DOD tried to prevent disclosure and was effective in delaying public release of the report published in April 2004. That report lambasted the DOD for delaying by six months submitting purchase orders to Armor Holdings’ O’Gara-Hess Division for armored humvees.]
The Army began to issue contract modifications to Armor Holdings, the Army's primary supplier of up-armored Humvees, as early as May 2003. Additional contract modifications to increase production continued during 2003 and 2004, based on increasing requirements in the theater of operations.
[bth: True, some orders were placed, they were miniscule to the ever growing need. Real orders of significance did not happen until September 2004. In truth, Acting Sec. Brownlee flew to the plant in Feb. 04 after humiliating cross examination in House and Senate Armed Services Hearings to ‘cut a deal’ and increase plant production to get the media and congress off his back. Statements by the DOD from the highest levels on down that the plants were at full production, working 24x7, were patently false. Moreover this was known to Rumsfeld, Myers and Brownlee by at least Feb. 04. At no time prior to March 2005 was the O’Gara plant ever pushed to capacity and that March number of 550 was a publicity stunt. Harvey’s Friday evening announcement in December 2004 that he had suddenly discovered excess capacity at the O’Gara plant (which was public knowledge as early as Nov. 2004), was a dissembling comment. What he did was raise production to 550 in March 2005 (the theoretical peak load without taking additional production space down the street from the plant) by pushing 100 vehicles from the May 2005 production forward into March. What wasn’t said was that the plant was actually 275 vehicles ahead in December 04 in deliveries and hadn’t published those figures so it is unlikely production ever actually peaked. Furthermore, the implication to an unsuspecting public was that production had actually increased 20%, but in fact no additional vehicle orders were then placed. So while not exactly a lie, it certainly wasn’t the truth. The fact is, the Army’s senior generals, Brownlee, Myers and Rumsfeld persistently misstated to troops and the public that the plants were running at full capacity in late 2003 and all of 2004 and at no time was that statement true.]
The Army's job was to provide what the theater commander wanted, and clearly we did that.
[bth: Here is the spin. What was happening was this. The theater commanders were screaming for more vehicles. TACOM would say, well we’ve got money to smoothly produce this many vehicles this quarter, would you like them? The theater commander would say yes, and so TACOM would issue a press release every sixty days or so at the end of the month saying, the Army was meeting the theater commanders’ requests. So technically this statement is accurate and yet deceiving at the same time. The difference was of course, one of life and death for those troops in the field.]
In parallel with increasing the rate of production of up-armored Humvees, the Army aggressively worked to get additional armor on its existing fleet of vehicles in Iraq.
[bth: Again true and deceiving at the same time. After a time, troops in the field gave up waiting for official approval to modify their vehicles with anything more than sandbags and plywood. They began welding scrap iron they could find in country to their vehicles.]
When the initial requirement for more armored vehicles became known, the Army solicited solutions industry-wide. Fifty-eight companies responded with 307 proposed solutions, but only 11 of these could meet the Army's quality standards. The Army selected all 11 to provide additional armor for its seven vehicle types.
[bth: Again technically true and false at the same time. The Rapid Fielding Initiative worked well at identifying vendors with solutions. The vendors stood on their heads to accommodate the Army with numerous innovative solutions. Then things moved from RFI to procurement and to Aberdeen. The Aberdeen folks didn’t want to approve innovative solutions from non-traditional vendors (read those providing marines and air force armor) and so they declined to test the armor. No testing meant no stamp of approval which meant that they were disqualified from actual production. Rep. Simmons from CT made this problem public over a year ago. Further more, an abundance of assembly and laser cutting capabilities exist in this country but orders were channeled to several select Army armories like Rock Island and Anniston that were targeted for BRAC base closure, thus showing their usefulness. Those plants then went through temporary surges for a few months before dropping back down to minimal production as purchase orders were issued for a only few months at a time. This
meant that dozens of contractors like Foster-Miller that had set itself up to produce retrofit kits in volume at the RFI’s request found they had no orders. Months passed with no activity. Four months later, in Foster-Miller’s case, the army did not purchase after approving the kits, so the plant was approached by the marines who in a matter of 90 days outfitted 1000 vehicles with the capacity the Army declined to tap in 2004. Then once that order was completed for the marines in April 2004, the Foster-Miller plant, with no additional orders for the Army went back to making ballistic shielding for aircraft. In the meantime half our casualties were coming from troops blasted by IEDs in vehicles with scant or hillbilly armor.]
These two initiatives up-armored more than 30,000 wheeled vehicles with proven solutions in a little more than 16 months. Most telling, as of Feb. 15, these efforts had enabled all Army forces in Iraq to operate outside of the base camps in up-armored vehicles. It is important to remember that increased armor protection is not the only method to counter threats to our Soldiers, especially those from improvised explosive devices.
[bth: about half of the vehicles are now hillbilly armored. This is insufficient for mine protection and is no longer sufficient for blast protection from larger and more sophisticated IEDs. The medium and heavy trucks may or may not have ballistic glass which can be fatal to a driver and most medium trucks do not have protection on the right side of the vehicle or behind the cab. As of a month or so ago, only about a quarter of the trucks had protection. More of the freight load has been shifted now to civilian contractors who also lack protection, but don’t show up on government stats.
Shortly after this Feb. announcement was made about universal protection, a friend sent me photos of his vehicles which were not fully protected and those photos made there way to the Sen. Armed Services Committee. Denial and dissembling comments followed from the brass. To the current theater commander’s credit, I believe they are in fact trying to meeting this standard and shouldn’t be discouraged. As an example, 700 Gavins that sat idle for the last two years in Kuwait and finally got funding for supplemental armor (Dec. 2004) for fielding in Iraq in 2005. Their earlier fielding would have likely saved hundred of casualties blasted in lighter humvees, but at least some action was taken. These DOD planners would have lost WWII.]
Through the IED task force's initiative, the Army has been quick to revise its tactics, techniques and procedures in combat and it has applied lessons learned from the battlefield to its training centers and operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
[bth: True, but untrue. As of a month ago only about 20% of the IED electronic jammers needed in theater had been ordered, much less delivered. The January 31, 2005 in field level was under 1500 and the requirement is over 8000. Again a case of too little too late.]
No amount of effort in armoring will make our Soldiers completely invulnerable, but we owe it to them to provide the best possible protection.
[bth: please don’t insult us]
The well-being of Soldiers remains my top priority, and I am committed to doing that.
[bth: Good. Just Do it. Don’t make today’s army motto be, “Too
little too late.”
It shows that armored humvee requirements now exceed 10,000. The timing is not coincidental. The Army knew of this need two months ago. The timing is set just before new congressional hearings and within a 60 day window required for the O'Gara plant to stay in production with two 10 hour shifts for an additional two to three months. I have every reason to believe that in June we will see the armored humvee go up an additional 2000 units to spoon feed the congress and the American public the increasing cost of this war one tablespoon at a time.
"For the fifth time in the past year, U.S. commanders running the war in Iraq have told the Army to send more armored Humvee utility vehicles to protect U.S. troops.
Just as the Army was reaching its target of 8,279 factory-built armored Humvees for delivery to Iraq, U.S. Central Command last month raised the bar again, to 10,079, Army officials disclosed Tuesday...."
LSA ANACONDA, Iraq (Army News Service, April 7, 2005) " The first group of 35 remotely-operated weapons for mounting on top of Humvees arrived in Iraq recently and the systems were divided among military police, Special Forces, infantry and transportation units.The price tag on the project is $200,000 per vehicle which seems high for a vehicle that costs less than $215,000 with accessories. Nevertheless the survivability and performance will be substantially better. Also if you consider the cost of a vehicle with this system at roughly $415,000 its still cheaper than the next leading candidate, the Armored Scout Vehicle which starts at $600,000.
The Common Remotely Operated Weapon Stations, or CROWS as they are known, provide crews the ability to locate, identify and engage targets with better accuracy and improved range, while keeping the gunner inside, protected by the vehicle's up-armor.
The technology used on the CROWS is a variation of the remote-controlled crew-served weapons system already used on combat vehicles like the Bradley fighting vehicle and the M-1A1 Abrams tank. "We will be fielding, in the next two years, over 300 systems," said Maj. Frank Lozano, the program manager for the CROWS project on LSA Anaconda.
Here are some excerpts:
Since Iraq's Jan. 30 parliamentary elections, that process has accelerated much more rapidly than U.S. commanders have previously acknowledged. Although AO Iraq is one of just two sectors currently under Iraqi control (the other is the area around Baghdad's Haifa Street), two senior U.S. officers said the Iraqis' zone of responsibility would soon expand and eventually include all of Nineveh province, including Mosul and Tall Afar, another volatile city, possibly within a year.
... But the process in Mosul, where in November insurgents overpowered an 8,000-man Iraqi police force and several National Guard units, demonstrates how fast the transition is happening.
Col. Robert B. Brown, commander of the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team), which conducts combat operations throughout northern Iraq, predicted the transition would come "over the next six months to a year . . . until pretty soon they've got the whole area and we do nothing but respond" to emergencies.
The ambitious strategy is being questioned by some U.S. military advisers who work closely with the Iraqi forces. ... "It's all about perception, to convince the American public that everything is going as planned and we're right on schedule to be out of here," said one adviser, Army Staff Sgt. Craig E. Patrick, 40, a reservist from Rock Island, Ill. "I mean, they can [mislead] the American people, but they can't [mislead] us. These guys are not ready." ...
The Iraqi forces are still poorly equipped, U.S. advisers and Iraqi soldiers agreed. Most ride into battle in "Road Warrior"-like white Nissan pickup trucks with machine guns welded into the bed and makeshift armor supported by plywood and even cardboard. Iraqi units lack medics, adequate communications equipment, computers and other battlefield necessities."This is the 21st century," said Lt. Col. Raad Abdul Hassan, an Iraqi company commander with the 23rd Battalion. "It's shameful what we have."
...Marine Lt. Col. Russ Jamison, ... said U.S. expectations about the capabilities of the Iraqi forces were changing dramatically. "We're moving in the right direction," he said. "I didn't think an Iraqi battalion would have its own AO by 1 March. In fact I was very hesitant about it. When you see an Area of Operations, that means something. If you believe words mean things, then that's a level of expectation." ...
Waters, the U.S. adviser who was walking near the rear, said he is proud of the Iraqi soldiers and believed that his 13 years as a Marine had led up to this mission. "I feel like this is what I've been chosen to do," he said. At the same time, he said, if the United States tries to transfer authority at the current pace, "they won't be ready. No way. You can quote that: There's no way." ...
"The biggest problem is discipline," Kajs said.
Staff Sgt. Brad Rogers, who is with the 2113th Transportation Company in Paducah, Ky., complained in an e-mail to friends and co-workers in Kentucky that soldiers in his unit are driving old M915 tractor-trailers that frequently break down.
Rogers called the trucks 'a dinosaur' and said they are equipped with only one armored panel on each side and are not fitted with protective glass, or ballistic windows.
Rogers said he decided to speak out about the dangers to his unit after a fellow soldier, Sgt. James A. Sherrill, was killed last Sunday when a bomb exploded near his military vehicle.
Sherrill, 27, died when a piece of metal went through the truck window and hit him around his left temple, Rogers said.
'I feel in my heart that Sgt. Sherrill would still be with us if he had had ballistic windows,' Rogers wrote."
... Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Ohio, ... "It's sad and tragic that more than two years after the beginning of this war, we have soldiers that are not being provided with the most basic life-saving equipment that a soldier would need in a battle situation," Strickland said.
... He charged that there has been a lack of concern about the issue at the Pentagon and in Congress. "There is just not a sense of urgency, and it is because it is somebody else's kid out there in danger rather than the sons and daughters of us who serve in this administration or in this Congress," Strickland said.