Just posted at Michael Yon's website is a superb memo from retired General Barry McCaffrey on the state of affairs in Iraq. You won't find a more honest assessment that better summarizes what went right and what went wrong in 2007. Read the whole thing here.
While the focus of the memo is justly centered on the Iraqi theater of the war, I found that McCaffrey's frustration with the current state of the U.S. Armed Forces was more effective in addressing the roots of our problems in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Bottom line up front, the military is inadequately equipped, under funded, over tasked, and simply too small to meet America's global commitments. While there exists a growing movement in the Pentagon to undo 16 years of uninterrupted budget and manning cuts to the Armed Forces, McCaffrey is the highest ranking officer (retired or active duty) to properly communicate the seriousness of the situation. Here are his specifics:
The Army needs more BCTs:
An active counter-insurgency campaign in Iraq could probably succeed in the coming decade with twenty-five US Brigade Combat Teams. (Afghanistan probably needs two more US combat brigades for a total of four in the coming 15 year campaign to create an operational state--given more robust NATO Forces and ROE). We can probably sustain a force in Iraq indefinitely (given adequate funding) of some 10+ brigades. However, the US Army is starting to unravel.
The National Guard and Reserves require overhaul:
The National Guard and Reserves are too small, are inadequately resourced, their equipment is broken or deployed, they are beginning their second involuntary combat deployments, and they did not sign up to be a regular war-fighting force. They have done a superb job in combat but are now in peril of not being ready for serious homeland security missions or deployment to a major shooting war such as Korea.
The Air Force and Navy need the resources to properly modernize:
The modernization of our high technology US Air Force and Navy is imperiled by inadequate Congressional support. Support has focused primarily on the ground war and homeland security with $400 Billion+. We are digging a strategic hole for the US as we mono-focus on counter-insurgency capabilities--while China inevitably emerges in the coming 15 years as a global military power.
Gates good, Rumsfeld bad:
The leadership of Secretary Bob Gates in DOD has produced a dramatic transformation of our national security effort which under the Rumsfeld leadership was characterized by: a failing under-resourced counter-insurgency strategy; illegal DOD orders on the abuse of human rights; disrespect for the media and the Congress and the other departments of government; massive self-denial on wartime intelligence; and an internal civilian-imposed integrity problem in the Armed Forces--that punished candor, de-centralized operations, and commanders initiative.
Admiral Mullen as CJCS and Admiral Fallon as CENTCOM Commander bring hard-nosed realism and integrity of decision-making to an open and collaborative process which re-emerged as Mr. Rumsfeld left office. (Mr. Rumsfeld was an American patriot, of great personal talent, energy, experience, bureaucratic cleverness, and charisma--who operated with personal arrogance, intimidation and disrespect for the military, lack of forthright candor, avoidance of personal responsibility, and fundamental bad judgment.)
Secretary Gates has turned the situation around with little drama in a remarkable display of wisdom, integrity, and effective senior leadership of a very complex and powerful organization. General Petraeus now has the complete latitude and trust in his own Departmental senior civilian leadership to have successfully changed the command climate in the combat force in Iraq. His commanders now are empowered to act in concert with strategic guidance. They can frankly level with the media and external visitors. I heard this from many senior leaders -- from three star General to Captain Company commanders.
We are recruiting the wrong people and failing to retain the right people:
Our recruiting campaign is bringing into the Army thousands of new soldiers (perhaps 10% of the annual input) who should not be in uniform. (Criminal records, drug use, moral waivers, non-high school graduates, pregnant from Basic Training and therefore non-deployable, lowest mental category, etc.)