Thursday, May 25, 2006

Where Are Our Brigades?

Max Boot says that we need more troops in Baghdad to gain control of the city:

The pacification of Tall Afar, a town of at least 150,000, required 3,800 American and 5,000 Iraqi soldiers. That's a ratio of one American per 40 civilians. In Baghdad, there are currently three American combat brigades, or about 8,600 troops. That's a ratio of one American per 698 civilians. No wonder the capital is so unsafe.

Even if you add in Iraqi security forces — about 9,000 Iraqi soldiers and 12,000 national police officers are deployed in Baghdad — there is still a woeful shortage of security. The problem is compounded by the fact that many of the uniformed Iraqis belong to political militias, criminal gangs or insurgent groups. Residents don't know whom to trust.

Given that the capital seems to be the focus of the enemy I can't argue against this conclusion. And the numbers Boot gives as present in Iraq are inadequate for the task of securing the capital city, no doubt.

I have a couple questions about this argument that go beyond securing Baghdad. One, given that the overall security force numbers in Iraq seem far more than adequate if you count all the forces, why aren't more troops inside Baghdad? Is Boot's number really the whole story?

Second, given that there are 570,000+ security forces in Iraq, where are they and what are they doing if not securing Baghdad? More to the point, if only three American combat brigades are in Baghdad, just what are the other twelve combat brigades doing? We don't have any in the south where 8 million Shias live. We don't have any in the Kurdish north where 3 million live. We have only three in Baghdad where 6 million live. Do we really have twelve brigades in the surrounding Sunni Triangle regions where the remaining 8 million Iraqis live?

Or have we pulled some of our brigades back from combat missions inside Iraq (though how to explain our casualties of late is the problem under this line of thought) to prepare them for Iran operations? (But a little later as I write here?)

Where are our brigades and what are they doing?