Bush Considering Short-Term Increase In Troops In Iraq, Despite Army Reports Showing Stretched Military Is Suffering
President Bush said yesterday that he is considering a short-term surge in troops in Iraq, an option that top generals have resisted. Among the options under review by the White House is sending 15,000 to 30,000 more troops to Iraq for six to eight months.
Forget the fact that Americans overwhelmingly oppose such a decision. Can our military be stretched any thinner -- even for a period of a few months?
Back in January, a 136-page report contracted by the Pentagon found that the Army cannot sustain the pace of troop deployments to Iraq long enough to break the back of the insurgency. The author of the study, retired Army officer Andrew Krepinevich, said even Army leaders are not sure how much longer they can keep up the unusually high pace of combat tours in Iraq before they trigger an institutional crisis. Some major Army divisions are serving their second yearlong tours in Iraq, and some smaller units have served three times.
The effects of stretching the military thin is harrowing.
Statistics just released by the Army's Mental Health Advisory Team Survey found that 22 soldiers deployed to Iraq or Kuwait committed suicide in 2005. Since the war began, 58 deployed soldiers have taken their lives.
The U.S. Army Surgeon General has created a suicide prevention cell to try to identify new ways to prevent suicide among soldiers.
One place to start may be the increasing number of troops -- many of whom have served multiple tours -- who are complaining of acute combat stress or depression.
A separate survey from the Army's Mental Health Advisory Team found that U.S. soldiers serving repeated Iraq deployments are 50 percent more likely to suffer such problems.
More than 650,000 soldiers have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001 -- including more than 170,000 now in the Army who have served multiple tours.
The proportion of soldiers who reported that they suffered a combination of anxiety, depression and acute stress rose to 17 percent, compared with 13 percent in the survey a year earlier. Combat stress is significantly higher among soldiers with at least one previous tour -- 18.4 percent, compared with 12.5 percent of those on their first deployment, the survey found.
Fourteen percent of soldiers surveyed said they have taken medications, such as antidepressants, for mental health problems.