Monday, November 27, 2006

Validating My Methodology

We don't need more US troops in Iraq.

Frederick Kagan, in his piece advocating 50,000 more US troops for Iraq as a decisive move to win, validates the methodology I've been using for more than three years to argue that we don't need more troops to win in Iraq. Writes Kagan:

Then there's the question of the size of the population to be pacified. Most of Iraq is relatively calm. Instances of violence in the Kurdish north and the Shia south are rare. No responsible analyst advocates sending large numbers of troops into either area--they are not needed and would not be welcomed. Disarming the Shia militias is a process that must be undertaken only after the Sunni Arab insurgency is under control, and it cannot be undertaken primarily by American forces directly confronting the Shiite population. Using all of Iraq's 27 million people as a baseline for estimating force ratios is, therefore, an invalid approach.

The U.S. command repeatedly and correctly points out that about 80 percent of the violence in Iraq occurs within a 35-mile radius of Baghdad, among a population of perhaps 10 million. Baghdad itself has roughly 6.5 million inhabitants, including the 2.5 million Shiites in Sadr City. These figures provide the basis for a more realistic estimate of the force levels needed. Applying the high-end ratio used in Tal Afar over the entire metropolitan Baghdad area would generate a requirement of 250,000 troops--both U.S. and Iraqi. There are currently about 100,000 Iraqi army troops that the U.S. command considers trained and ready. There are almost 150,000 American troops in Iraq now, including perhaps 70,000 combat troops. Conducting Tal Afar-type operations across the entire capital region all at once would require concentrating all available forces in the area and a "surge" of about 80,000 U.S. soldiers--a large number, to be sure, but very far from the "hundreds of thousands" or even "millions" generated by the use of specious historical examples.

But the situation is not even this dire. Not all areas of the capital region require such an intensive deployment. Indeed, previous successful operations even in Baghdad did not require such high force ratios.

I've argued again and again that we must look at troop levels for the north, center, and south separately; that we must look at Baghdad itself by districts; and that Iraqi forces must be included in the numbers needed to pacify the country.

Further, the military side is just one part of the strategy and numbers are merely one part of the military side.

We face a tiny but well-armed and financed, and ruthless enemy. As I wrote in November 2003 (cited above):

I don’t think we need more foreign troops, US or allied. Getting more Iraqis and deploying existing forces to guard ammo dumps until they can be destroyed are necessary, but the numbers look good for defeating the insurgents. It just takes time, though. Remember, we have to do it with minimum firepower as we fight among civilians. Our firepower and high tech advantages are minimized in police operations and we just can’t replicate our conventional speed of operations.

Patience. My amateur number crunching looks good.

The enemy cannot be defeated rapidly or with primarily military means. We could certainly revise how we use our troops or where we deploy them, but how can anyone argue we need more troops in Iraq? We already have more than 600,000 security personnel.

Move the troops we have where needed, certainly. But we need more time and not more troops to win. I'd rather add another 50,000 units of American patience to Iraq than pump up our troop levels.

Or maybe add Ritalin to the Congressional water supply.