Why end of stop-loss doesn't mean the end of war


Text by Sarah Phelan

Why doesn't the end of stop-loss mean the end of war? The short answer is, "It's the economy, stupid."

That said, it was good to hear Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announce yesterday that he has approved a plan to eliminate the use of stop-loss for deploying soldiers.

“Our goal is to cut the number of those stop-lossed by 50 percent by June 2010 and to eliminate the regular use of stop-loss across the entire Army by March 2011,” Gates said, noting that the Department of Defense still retains the authority to use stop-loss under extraordinary circumstances.

Asked what he considers extraordinary circumstances, Gates told reporters, “I would say that it would be some kind of an emergency situation where we absolutely had to have somebody's skills for a specific limited period of time.”

Asked who would make that decision, Gates said it would “probably ultimately be up to the Secretary of the Army.

Reminded that the argument for stop loss has always been, at least in public, unit cohesion, Gates told reporters that cohesion remains very important, but that retention is up, fairly significantly.

“And we are expecting the tempo of operations to be reduced over the next 18 months or so as we do draw down in Iraq,” Gates continued. “We will -- as best I understand, we will be drawing down in Iraq, over the next 18 or 19 months, significantly more than we are building up in Afghanistan, in terms of the Army.”

Stop-loss, Gates added, isn't a violation of the enlistment contract.

“But I believe that when somebody's end date of service comes up, to hold them against their will, if you will, is just not the right thing to do,” he said.

Asked about suicides in the military, Gates observed that “About a third of the suicides are members of the military who have never deployed.What I am told is that one of the principal causes of suicide, among our men and women in uniform, is broken relationships. And it's hard not to imagine that repeated deployments don't have an impact on those relationships.”

To understand war by the numbers, here is a list of some of the more salient statistics:

6 Years since US invaded Iraq
7.5 Years since US invaded Afghanistan
26 Days between September 11 attacks and invasion of Afghanistan.
1.6 million troops Numbers of troops deployed to war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
2006 The year the military met recruiting goals again, as recession hit.
4,251 US troops who have died in Iraq.
31,102 US troops wounded in Iraq
655 US troops who have died in Afghanistan
2,713 US troops wounded in Afghanistan.
300,000 US troops suffering from PTSD or major depression
320,000 US troops experiencing a traumatic brain injury during deployment
$4 -6.2 billion PTSD treatment costs in first 2 years after 1.6 million troops return
13,200 Number of soldiers who have been stop lossed*.
$700 billion Cost of Iraq war from 2003-2009
$800 billion Cost of Iraq war, including 2010 costs
$17 billion Estimated cost to expand US troops in Afghanistan to 134,000.
36,000 Number of US troops currently in Afghanistan.
17,000 Number of additional troops deployed to Afghanistan this spring
142,000 Number of U.S. troops in Iraq
190,000 Number of American contractors currently in Iraq
100,000 Number of troops Obama plans to bring home by August 2010
50,000 Number of troops Obama plans to keep in Iraq until end of 2011