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WASHINGTON – The Pentagon underestimated the number of military police and Arabic-speaking interrogators it would need to occupy Iraq, and the miscalculations have left U.S. troops there more vulnerable to ambush, U.S. officials say.
WorldNetDaily has learned war planners originally wanted an additional “cage,” or detention facility, to hold Iraqi prisoners of war in Northern Iraq, but the idea was abandoned because they didn’t have the MPs to support it.
They also downgraded the POW estimates at U.S. Central Command, officials say, because they didn’t have sufficient numbers of MPs to guard them.
“That’s why we didn’t take everybody that surrendered,” said a CentCom official involved in the war-planning who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“The amazing thing is that the decision was made to ignore the problem, as opposed to, say, training a bunch of reserves or infantry guys to perform guard duty missions at POW compounds,” he added.
Pentagon officials say guerrilla-style attacks on U.S. troops in Baghdad and smaller northern cities are coming mainly from remnants of Saddam Hussein’s forces who faded back into the civilian population following the invasion.
Some 30 American soldiers have been killed by hostile fire since May 1, when President Bush declared major combat over. Another 180 or so have been wounded.
Field commanders have had a hard time tracing the sources of the insurgency and have offered a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest of anyone who kills a coalition soldier.
Officials say they had to resort to cash rewards, because they still lack human intelligence on the ground.
In an after-action review of the invasion, 1st Marine Division commander Maj. Gen. James N. Mattis complained his troops were “caught flat-footed” by the unconventional tactics used by Saddam Hussein’s forces. He blamed in his 67-page report a “dearth” of human intelligence about the enemy leadership, as WorldNetDaily first reported.
Some officials now think Hussein’s commanders may have planned to put up a limited conventional resistance to U.S. forces during the invasion, then fade back into the civilian population and use stashed weapons, including mortar rounds, to wear down occupying forces in sustained urban warfare.
Compounding the intelligence problem is a lack of Arabic-speaking interrogators in Iraq, officials say.
“There aren’t enough Arabic interrogators over there,” said one official.
As WorldNetDaily first reported, a PERSCOM, or U.S. Total Army Personnel, official estimated just before the war that the Army would need about 850 Arabic linguists to get the job done, based on original estimates of 200,000 POWs and 400,000 displaced Iraqis. The official, Lt. Col. Christopher Munn, made the remarks in a briefing to a group of Army intelligence officers.
Yet the Army has only about 70 Arabic-speaking interrogators, and not all of them have been deployed to Iraq.
“The situation for linguists is so desperate that CentCom personnel are trying to get Kuwaiti soldiers to act as interpreters,” which raises loyalty issues, an official said.
Hard-pressed, the Army has also turned to its civilian sector for help.
A recent recruitment notice posted on the Army’s internal web board reads: “Seeking Arab speakers among Army’s civilian workforce for reimbursable detail to Army positions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and other CONOPS,” or concepts of operations.
The Pentagon declined comment.
WorldNetDaily has also learned that the administration delayed activation of MP reserve units until after the November mid-term election.
“Many reservists and National Guard units were scheduled to be called up earlier, but the administration wasn’t calling them up until after the election,” an official said.
And some units’ deployment was further delayed by a shortage of desert fatigues, or “coolers.”
Take the 443rd Military Police Company U.S. Army Reserve out of Owings Mills, Md., for example. It was finally activated in February and sent to Fort Lee, Va., for deployment.
But the MPs hit a snag the next month, when the war started.
“They didn’t even have the coolers for them. They didn’t have enough to go around,” an official said. “Here they were getting set to send MPs over there without the proper equipment.”
The MPs assignment in Iraq involves guarding POWS, as well as troops, escorting officials, and training and assisting Iraq police, who also have been attacked.
Some Pentagon officials say the administration didn’t think through the occupation and plan properly for it, because it counted on the assurances of Iraqi defectors who said the overwhelming majority of Iraqis would welcome American troops once they took Baghdad and forced Saddam Hussein from power.
Just before the war, the Army’s chief of staff Gen. Eric Shinseki testified it could take “several hundred thousand” U.S. troops to occupy postwar Iraq. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld assailed his estimates as inflated.
Shinseki retired last month. His immediate boss, Army Secretary Thomas White, who was also at odds with Rumsfeld, resigned in April.
There are now some 145,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. The war’s retiring commander, Gen. Tommy Franks, insists no extra troops are needed.
That’s a mistake, says a senior Pentagon official.
“We don’t have the infantry to hold Iraq for the regime change,” he said, adding that original war plans called for a 10-year occupation.
And that puts a premium on intelligence-gathering, he says.
“If you don’t have half-a-million troops to throw at the problem, you have to be smarter about the way you go at it,” he said. “Military intelligence increases in value by multiples.”
Yet military intelligence is suffering from a shortage of Arabic-speaking interrogators, officials point out.