Monday, March 27, 2006

What occupation requires

Want an idea of how many troops and police it takes to provide security in Iraq?

By any measure the current troop presence is far, far too low. Most rational estimates -- rejected as inconvenient by the Bush administration prior to the war -- calculate that at least 400,000 troops are needed -- roughly what we'll have once the Iraqi Army is fully trained and effective, which will take years. And that assumes that we never pull out our troops.

But here's a real example of an attempt to pacify an Iraqi city, Tall Afar.

To prevent more violence, the streets have been blanketed with troops. Four thousand U.S. troops and 8,000 Iraqi troops as well as about 1,700 police officers are in the city of 200,000 residents, said Col. Sean MacFarland, commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division.

If you do the math, that works out to one soldier or police officer for every 14.6 residents.

Apply that to the entire country of 27 million, and you could plausibly argue that we need 1.8 million troops to properly secure Iraq.

And even with that many troops, Tall Afar is not peaceful.

"Violence has increased, mortar attacks have increased, roadside bombs have increased," said Mohammed Taqi, a national legislator from the city who recently wrote to Iraq's interim president and prime minister, requesting that Tall Afar's administrative affairs be handled in Baghdad rather than the provincial capital, Mosul. The roads to that city — as well as two neighborhoods in Tall Afar — are controlled by insurgents, he said.

Let's hope we keep Tall Afar in mind when we're planning future campaigns.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

A big reason the insurgency (meaning those who attack US military and Iraqi forces; not foreign jihadists) has been so effective is because so many local citizens either don't mind their activities or actually support them. Let's face it, insurgents can't operate amid an unfriendly populace (Algeria anyone?). I've seen video footage of insurgents firing mortars in plain view of local residents. It's not difficult to figure out that a whole lot of Iraqis are fed up with the heavy-handed occupation. Only recently have we reduced public visibility of US troops, but it's too late.
IMO, it takes much more than lots of troops to occupy a country. It takes some degree of competence, and the Bush administration doesn't have it.
But, God forbid we pour our money and defense into another unprovoked invasion. There's all kinds of bad people out there; military aggression isn't the answer.
- Caracarn

3/27/2006 1:40 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

True, you need troops *and* competence, and the Bush team has been short of both in Iraq.

I think Iraq ensures we won't be invading another country anytime soon, both because of limited resources and greatly reduced appetite.

Which is actually too bad, IMO. If we picked our targets carefully and cultivated domestic and global support, we could seriously reduce the amount of suffering on this planet -- and coerce better behavior even from the tyrants we don't take out. We had perhaps a unique opportunity to remake the world for the better -- and the Bushies fumbled it.

3/27/2006 5:11 PM  
Anonymous maxtrue said...

I suppose non-military means will prevent Iranian nukes? When Russia completes 29 TOR missile defense batteries in Iran, the meaning of "international cooperation" will become clear. Bush may have fumbled but there is time left in the third quarter and victory is essential. Perhaps part of the problem is that some Western allies are slow to see which team best protects their interests.

If Bush fumbles Iran, we might see some serious consequence. Until then, international consensus has some time to show its worth.

3/29/2006 1:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Either the LA Times reporter who came up with this ratio is not very good at math, or I was not very clear during our discussion. The numbers she quotes are for the entire Brigade Area of Operations, not just the city of Tal Afar. So, in essence, she exaggerated the number of security forces by about a factor of four. If you apply the correct ratio, you find that the number comes out around 400,000 troops to secure the country of Iraq. We currently have about 230,000 Iraqi Security Forces, 130,000 US Forces, and about 20,000 Coalition Troops. When you add them up, we are pretty close to the ratio required.
- COL Sean MacFarland
Commander, 1st BCT, 1st Armored Division

4/16/2006 10:51 AM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

That would certainly change the math in my post!

Can you provide a link or some other authority for that quote? It's hard to take an anonymous assertion at face value.

I did find this Newsweek story from April 16 that supports the idea that the ratio is 1:50 instead of 1:14.6.

But there are a few caveats:

1. That ratio still suggests we need 540,000 troops;

2. There are more troops available just outside the city to be called in if needed, so the 1:50 ratio is a floor;

2. Tall Afar is not yet pacified even with that many troops.

4/16/2006 11:45 AM  

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