By Claire Bernish
A new report released Thursday revealed that a surprising number of military generals have been deployed to fight Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) — the very war the United States denies it’s actually fighting. As The Daily Beast explains in an exclusive report:
There are at least 12 U.S. generals in Iraq, a stunningly high number for a war that, if you believe the White House talking points, doesn’t involve American troops in combat.That number doesn’t include those superior officers who oversee airstrikes against Daesh in both Syria and Iraq, nor does it include admirals in charge of maritime operations — and the number jumps to 21 when accounting for other coalition members’ senior officers.
Officially, notes the Daily Beast, only 3,870 troops on the ground in Iraq — “the equivalent of a heavy brigade, which is usually led by a colonel. One colonel.”
But even with reports of at least 5,000 troops, the number of senior officials and flag officers is rather inexplicable.
Defense officials defended the deployment of so many generals to The Daily Beast. In a war where there are so many different types of fighters, these officials said, you need generals to coordinate. Today’s warfighter is more lethal, thanks to improved technology, and therefore needs a commander with the appropriate authority to sign off authority on that use of power. The intelligence reaching the front lines is so complex, it demands the talents of a one-star general, defense officials argued to The Daily Beast.The Pentagon somehow remains resolute in claiming U.S. troops are “not in an active combat mission” in Iraq — despite quickly-mounting evidence to the contrary. With the military only revealing its base after being forced into doing so, it’s unclear exactly how involved the United States actually is.
“Having this many generals and flag officers gives the appearance of commitment without the substance of commitment,” Christopher Harmer, a naval analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, told The Daily Beast.
Though total enlisted troops were downsized following World War II, senior military personnel have not been. This awkwardly disproportionate military structure has been criticized as ‘costly and ineffective’ — though the Pentagon apparently disagrees.
In fact, “Several past defense secretaries have tried to cut the number of generals,” the report explains. “Former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel tried to reduce the number of general officers and civilians by 20 percent but wasn’t on the job long enough to make it happen. Robert Gates, the defense secretary during the peak of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, proposed eliminating 50 generals and admirals.”
Perhaps the Pentagon simply harbors an affinity for senior personnel, as under its stated premise such officers are needed for the modern “warfighter.” But the military’s bloated budget — which, in 2014, comprised “more than a third of all defense spending worldwide” — as well as its utter inability to account for it, could be telling of U.S. involvement far beyond what the Pentagon publicly claims.
Indeed, increasingly complex U.S. missions in the Middle East have led to strange situations like that in Syria, where CIA-backed rebels are actively fighting Pentagon-armed combatants.
Now that the number of generals involved in the fight against Daesh has become public knowledge, it seems highly likely further revelations will follow — but based on past acknowledgements, the Pentagon may only do so if backed into a corner.
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