According to the Pentagon's latest report to Congress on the security situation in Iraq, the greatest threat to that country's long-term security continues to come not from homegrown internal insurgents but from Iranian-supported "Special Groups."
"Malign Iranian influence continues to pose the most significant threat to long-term stability in Iraq," states the September 2008 report, "Measuring Security and Stability in Iraq," released today. "Despite continued Iranian promises to the contrary, it appears clear that Iran continues to fund, train, arm, and direct ((Special Groups)) intent on destabilizing the situation in Iraq. Prime Minister Maliki has repeatedly engaged Iranian leaders on this issue. The majority of SG leaders remain in Iran where they sought sanctuary following ISF operations in Basrah, Baghdad and Maysan Province."
Aside from that, DOD reports that the overall security situation in Iraq "has greatly improved" in the past quarterly reporting period, with incidents having stayed at levels not seen since early 2004. Civilian deaths in the country have gone down 77 percent lower than the same three months in 2007, according to the report.
DOD credits the coalition force surge as well as "the growth of more capable Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), the contributions of the Sons of Iraq (SoI), the ability of forces to secure the population, operations against Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and other extremist elements, and the increased willingness of the people and the Government of Iraq (GoI) to confront extremists are important factors that have contributed to the improved security environment."
The demand for individual augmentees (IAs) to support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has also grown from about 1,000 in fiscal year 2005, according to the document, to about 7,500.
“Maintaining the higher strength levels has enabled the Navy to meet the increasing demand for additional IAs,” the document states.
Hanzlik wrote that the “extensive work” has been conducted in recent years to validate the appropriate force size for the Navy, “through a capability-based analysis of current and future force structure and warfighting requirements associated with a 313-ship Navy.”
Despite the increase in operational tempo and a lagging economy, the Navy appears comfortable with its projected force levels.
“We continuously analyze our end strength and make adjustments based on recruiting and retention performance as well as new and enduring mission requirements,” Hanzlik wrote. “Any request for adjustment of the FY-09 authorized end strength would be submitted by the department through a supplemental request or reprogramming action. If necessary, that would occur in spring” 2009.
-- John Liang