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Analysts: Increasing US Troop Strength in Iraq Long Overdue - 2004-04-13

The head of U.S. central command, General John Abizaid has asked the Pentagon for up to 10,000 more troops to help deal with Iraqi insurgents. Many analysts and politicians in Washington say U.S. hopes for democracy in Iraq are doomed unless the country's security needs are met. Several foreign affairs experts have said that increasing troop strength is long overdue

Kenneth Pollack, Director of Research at the Saban Center for Middle East policy, says twin-Sunni and Shiite Muslim uprisings in Iraq show that coalition forces have failed in their primary responsibility: to provide a secure environment, in which aid can flow, the economy can recover, and a democratic future can be forged.

"Security is job number one," he said. "We continue to not provide the Iraqis with day-to-day security. Iraqis overwhelmingly, overwhelmingly, [are] saying that the number-one problem in the country is the absence of security."

Brookings Institution foreign policy analyst Ivo Daalder agrees.

"Whether it is training for police, whether it is delivering humanitarian aid, it requires security," he said. "Security for the international presence. Security for average Iraqis. Security."

But how to make Iraq more secure is proving to be a thorny question. Hopes that Iraqi security forces would be able to assume greater responsibility for patrolling their country have been thrown into question, with some units fleeing their posts amid escalating strife and violence, and others refusing to take part in coalition efforts to quell insurgencies.

Ivo Daalder says the international community is not expected to provide additional help. He says few countries outside the existing coalition have the military capability to contribute what is needed to quell violence in Iraq - and fewer would be willing to help.

"[For] Those who are not part of the coalition, I am not sure there is an incentive now to getting involved," he said. "I do not see how a country like India or Pakistan, let alone France or Germany, will now finally decide that this is the time to start sending troops in. So here is [President] Bush's dilemma: never has it been clearer that America needs international support and engagement in Iraq, and never has it been less likely to get it."

Mr. Daalder says only the United States can significantly boost the coalition's troop presence in Iraq. He is in agreement with Senator John McCain, who backs President Bush's goals for Iraq, but has been critical of the administration's handling of the effort. The Arizona Republican spoke on the NBC television program Meet the Press.

"We are going to have to expand our military presence there," he said. "We are going to have to expand the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Army. We have got to change the way we do business and put [our] priority where it belongs. And that is making sure we succeed in Iraq."

Proponents of boosting U.S. troop strength do not see it as a cure-all for Iraq's ills. But they say the United States has no choice but to send more soldiers

Even with foreign convoys being attacked, foreigners being taken hostage, a Shiite militia flexing its muscle, and a Sunni rebellion underway, the administration has maintained the coalition is confronting a relatively small number of troublemakers in Iraq, and that existing coalition forces are strong enough to deal with them.

The U.S. Administrator for Iraq, Paul Bremer, also spoke on Meet the Press.

"We have got several thousand people who are anti-democratic, who do not believe in the kind of Iraq that we are trying to build and which the majority of Iraqis want," he said. "And we are going to have to deal with them."

President Bush has echoed that message.

"This violence we have seen is a few people trying to stop the progress toward democracy," he said. "Fallujah, south of Baghdad - these incidents are basically thrust upon the innocent Iraqi people by violent gangs. And our troops are taking care of business."

The Bush administration has delayed the departure of some long-serving U.S. soldiers that were scheduled to be rotated out of Iraq - temporarily boosting U.S. troop presence in the country as other soldiers arrive. Prior to General Abizaid's request, President Bush had said he would consider sending more troops if U.S. military commanders asked for them.