Some Pentagon Critics Say U.S. Needs A Larger Army To Fight Iraq, Afghanistan Wars. Rumsfeld? He Hopes Montenegro Can Help. (Montenegro?)
Does the U.S. need a larger Army?
Gordon R. Sullivan, the former Army chief of staff, told the the New York Times that the Army was simply too small for the many responsibilities it faced and should be expanded from about 500,000 in the active force to some 560,000. It also needs to make greater use of the National Guard, he said.
Barry R. McCaffrey, the retired four-star Army general, also asserted that the armed forces needed to be expanded. “We cannot sustain the current national security policy," he told the Times.
But Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has not favored substantially expanding the Army, concluding that such a step would draw money from programs he favors to overhaul the military. Congress, however, has mandated a temporary 30,000-soldier increase for the Army.
The strain on the Army may grow worse if Italy decides to leave Afghanistan at yearend. Italy has some 1,600 troops among the 20,000 NATO-led troops in Afghanistan. (The U.S. also has more than 20,000 troops there.)
The death yesterday of an Italian soldier in Afghanistan fueled a new debate among Italy's ruling coalition as to whether to continue funding its troops in Afghanistan beyond the end of the year.
Italian President Giorgio Napolitano defended the Afghan mission, but Welfare Minister Paolo Ferrero said: "it's obvious that we have to seriously look at the issue of how to get out." In a separate interview, Ferrero said: "this is not anymore a peace keeping mission but a war mission."
But even if Italy leaves the coalition, Rumsfeld has found one replacement source of troops: Montenegro.
Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic told Rumsfeld yesterday that Montenegro, which in July declared independence from its loose federation with Serbia, would consider sending troops to Iraq and Afghanistan.
The country, which has a population of 620,000, has an Army of between 650 and 1,100.
In other words, Montenegro can't fill Italy's shoes -- let alone the shoes some Pentagon critics suggest the U.S. needs to add to win the war.