Saturday, October 07, 2006

Who Counts?

Another note on numbers of troops in Iraq.

First of all, let me note that Saddam managed to keep his Kurds and Shias suppressed for many years without any American troops at all. He just had Iraqis. And most of them were fairly ill trained. And while sometimes he needed to really kill a lot of Shias or Kurds really quickly to force them into submission, mostly it was just occupation and police work.

So how many troops and security personnel do we have for 25 million Iraqis? I'll round and mostly go from memory:

We have about 140,000 troops in Iraq.

The Coalition adds 20,000.

Count 10,000 private security.

Then add in 275,000 Iraqi army and police.

Toss in 70,000 Kurdish Peshmerga militia in the Kurdish areas.

We could even add in 15,000 official Shia militia people though they are a mixed bag. But they do fight (and murder and terrorize, unfortunately) Sunnis.

This is 510,000 troops, or a little above the 2% of the population ratio that is commonly said to be the minimum for a successful counter-insurgency.

But wait, there's more!

As the latest Pentagon report on Iraq notes, there are 145,000 Facility Protection Service personnel. I've mentioned them before and how they are strangely not counted.

This last group brings us up to 655,000 security personnel.

If we want to be really ambitious, let's count the 30,000 Sunni tribal forces that Anbar tribal chiefs promised to fight foreign jihadis in the west.

And of course, we hardly need the intense ratios for the peaceful southern Shia areas. We could also just ignore the Kurdish areas and Peshmerga and say we have 585,000 personnel for 22 million people in the non-Kurd areas.

And since we can be thinner on the ground in Shia areas, the effective ratio for the Sunni and mixed regions around Baghdad can go way up.

It is more complicated than just counting troops and population and doing some quick division.

Now, granted, the quality of all of these forces vary considerably. And we can't even just talk American versus Iraqi. While valuable, our support personnel are just not out there fighting like Iraqi army units or national police. And the FPS are really just security guards. But they protect facilities that need guarding that would otherwise need to be protected by better trained Iraqi police or army units--or even American units.

But the bottom line is we have a total of 685,000 troops fighting the various enemies inside Iraq. And we are seriously arguing about whether 20,000 more American troops will be decisive? When military power is a necessary but not decisive portion of the counter-insurgency effort?

So I don't know why the discussion over winning in Iraq (we are winning) is about numbers. And even when talking about sufficient numbers to win in Iraq, I have no idea why the discussion is only about American troops and whether 20,000 more Americans will be decisive. This is just tunnel vision.

Step back, look broadly, and have some patience.