Thursday, January 25, 2007

Iraq leaves US army, marines unready for high intensity war: generals

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Nearly four years in Iraq have hammered US army and marines into a skilled counter-insurgency force but has left it unready for war against a conventionally armed foe, US generals warn.

Arguing for big budget increases and more troops, leaders of both military services have made the case in recent days that the US military faces greater risk today if it is called to respond to another major conflict.

"What we are developing right now is the best counterinsurgency force in the world, both army and marine," General James Conway, commandant of the marine corps, told lawmakers Tuesday.

But "that's essentially what they're focused on," Conway added, because troops have little time to train for anything else between tours to Iraq.

"So we need to be able to train toward other major contingency types of operations, and we're just not doing it right now," he said.

General Peter Schoomaker, the army chief of staff, echoed Conway's concerns at hearing before the House Armed Services Committee.

"I have no concerns about how we are equipping, training and manning the forces that are going across the berm into harm's way. But I do have continued concerns about the strategic depth of our Army and its readiness," he said.

Lieutenant General Stephen Speakes, an army deputy chief of staff, told defense reporters this week none of the army's combat brigades are rated as ready for high intensity conflict.

"If you take a look at the forces not deployed to combat, whether they are active guard or reserve, they have substantial equipping shortfalls, and also some issues with training and manning," he said.

"What that means then is they are not optimized to be ready to fight a high-intensity conflict," he said.

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