A report released yesterday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office shows that the real troop increase associated with President Bush’s escalation policy could be as high as 48,000, more than double the 21,500 soldiers that Bush has claimed. Moreover, despite administration assertions that the escalation would cost $5.6 billion, the CBO report estimates that “costs would range from $9 billion to $13 billion for a four-month deployment and from $20 billion to $27 billion for a 12-month deployment.” The new facts about escalation come just as Congress is set to receive a long-delayed National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, the first such document from the U.S. intelligence community since 2002. According to the Washington Post, the NIE “outlines an increasingly perilous situation in which the United States has little control and there is a strong possibility of further deterioration.”
- The Pentagon is hiding the full extent of the escalation by only discussing combat troop numbers. Combat units being sent to Iraq need to be backed up by “substantial support forces, including personnel to staff headquarters, serve as military police, and provide communications, contracting, engineering, intelligence, medical, and other services.” According to the CBO, the Pentagon has specified the number of combat troops being deployed as part of the escalation, but it has “not yet indicated which support units will be deployed along with the added combat forces, or how many additional troops will be involved.” The CBO’s low estimate envisions at least 15,000 additional support personnel. The alternative scenario “would require about 28,000 support troops in addition to the 20,000 combat troops.” The CBO report appears to contradict testimony to Congress by Army Chief of Staff Peter Schoomaker, who said at a Jan. 23 hearing that the 21,500 increase included four support battalions. “Right now, we do not anticipate there will be increased combat service support requirements over what is now embedded inside of the brigade combat teams we have.” But the CBO report considers Schoomaker’s claim and rejects it. “Army and DoD officials have indicated that it will be both possible and desirable to deploy fewer additional support units than historical practice would indicate,” the report states.
- The escalation could cost as much as $200 billion more than the administration says. New estimates of the cost of escalation come on top of the $379 billion that Congress has already appropriated for the Iraq war. Yesterday, the Bush administration announced it will request an additional $100 billion “to cover war operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for the rest of this year,” about $80 billion of which will be spent on Iraq. “That would come on top of $70 billion Congress already approved for the wars this year.” For 2008, the administration will ask for an amount “larger than the $100 billion in the fiscal 2007 request,” Reuters reports.
- The United States continues to risk getting drawn into a region-wide conflict. Former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski testified yesterday, “If the United States continues to be bogged down in a protracted bloody involvement in Iraq, the final destination on this downhill track is likely to be a head-on conflict with Iran and with much of the world of Islam at large.” Indeed, U.S. pressure on Iran has increased significantly in recent weeks. The U.S. government has accused Iran of “helping Iraqi militants make lethal bombs to attack US troops,” authorized the U.S. military to “kill or capture Iranian military and intelligence operatives inside Iraq,” raided an Iranian liaison office in Iraq, detained several diplomats, and dispatched a second U.S. naval carrier battle group to the Persian Gulf. For all this bluster, Iran is “mentioned, but is not a focus” in the new Iraq NIE, and The Los Angeles Times reported that “[e]vidence of Iranian involvement in Iraq’s troubles is limited.”
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