Paratroopers or airborne troops (though there is a slight technical difference between the two) are shock troops. They are in general used for their speed, stealth (until it’s too late for the enemy) and shock effects. They are inserted into combat zones, basically leapfrogging the normal army advance. Their aim could be to seize bridges, important stations or towns, key points, tactical terrain, etc. Sometimes, and rarely, they are used to reinforce other isolated troops under siege.
They are virtually the elite of the army troops. They are used principally for offensive actions and trained to hold on to an objective for a short period until relieved by the better equipped and more heavily armed normal troops.
Why then are the US military sending 700 paratroopers to Iraq, mind you, not to fight, but to help secure detention centres or prisons.
The Pentagon has announced that an infantry battalion from the WWII famous 82nd Airborne Division will go to Iraq over the next two months on an open-ended deployment to provide security at the US-run detention facilities.
Open-ended deployment! Got that?
It seems that the US paratroopers will be used for site-protection of the main prisons in Iraq, to provide security while transporting prisoners from one jail to another, and as prison guards. Those are duties that are normally assumed by the military police or even normal troops , whether from the regular army or National Guard reserves, but certainly not a role for elite shock troops specialising in offensive actions.
I don’t believe that will be their roles. I reckon the combat situation in Iraq is worsening and the US military has finally come to their senses to use highly trained combat troops such as the paratroops. Open-ended deployment means they'll be there for a while - perhaps one battalion now, and more later.
But the Pentagon probably is cloaking this real combat-required reason for the paratroopers’ deployment for various political reasons – (1) to disguise the worsening military situation, (2) to mask the incompetence or incapability of Reservists to deal with the Iraqi insurgents, (3) to leave unstated the frightening capability of the insurgents, (4) to pretend to the US public that the US military deployment interms of capability and capacity in Iraq has been adequate and correct all along (protecting the Secretary of Defence 's backside), and of course (5) to not lower the morale of the American people at home or the Reservists serving in Iraq.
On the other hand, if I misread the whole affair and the Pentagon is actually using the paras as prison wardens, then that does tell us something about the stupidity of the Secretary and his advisors.