Recent reports in newspapers about the desire of the U.S. Marine Corps to pull its troops out of Iraq and take over the fighting in Afghanistan have provoked fury among Army generals. “This (the proposal) is not going down well with the Army,” said a general on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, adding the situation is going to “be more contentious and sensitive than many people outside of the inside team realize.” The Marines have floated the idea of its 25,000 mean force in Iraq being pulled out and going to Afghanistan where it would have complete responsibility for handling military operations. This would require Army troops being pulled out of Afghanistan and redeploying to Iraq. Marine units are designed to be self-sustaining for up to 30 days in case of a Marine expeditionary unit, and 60 days in case of a Marine expeditionary brigade. Longer deployments, “by law” require the Army to provide logistical support. If Marines redeployed to Afghanistan, the U.S. Army would have to provide support for Marine units that are not under the command of Army generals.
Some experts wonder if a Marine seven month rotation works in counter-insurgencye operations which necessitate building long term relations with local inhabitants. There is no doubt Army generals have taken umbrage at the implication Marines have been more effective in fighting Iraq insurgents. This “conflict” is merely one of many in American history in which competing units of our armed forces argue as to which is the more effective fighting group. One can only wonder where Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is as the controversy swirls around — was he aware of Marine desires before they became public knowledge?