Planning and Training for the Post-'Surge'
American troops are learning cultural nuances as they prepare for a bigger role in advising Iraqi soldiers and police
Permanent force. Given the complex nature of the work, some are pushing to create a permanent Army Advisor Corps. Lt. Col. John Nagl, a counterinsurgency expert who trains transition teams at Fort Riley, recently wrote a widely circulated paper advocating a permanent standing Advisor Corps of 20,000. "Unfortunately, the Army and the nation have rarely given sufficient priority to the advisory teams they embed in host nation forces." What's more, he adds, "the need for well-trained, professional combat advisers is unlikely to diminish in the foreseeable future." Lt. Col. David Seigel commands a tank battalion that was retasked with training advisers. "We're not doing much tanking right now. It may sound like heresy, but I don't mind—this is critical to our exit strategy. Politically, this defines what we're doing. Somebody has to do the advising."
Though that's a common sentiment in the military, many remain wary of institutionalizing such a role—traditionally the realm of Special Forces—within an Army anxious for more interagency support. Creating an adviser corps, too, would mean fewer brigade combat teams in an already overstretched force. "It's a tough debate, and we've got to make some tough decisions on where to put our resources," says Clinton Ancker III, head of the Combined Armed Center Doctrine Directorate at Fort Leavenworth. "When you need advisers generally you need a lot of them because something's gone terribly, terribly wrong," he adds. "Training advisers isn't an ancillary task—it's fundamental." But Ancker grapples with a question increasingly prevalent in the Army: "How," he asks, "do we balance it all?"