2006 December 17 Sunday
100,000 Contractors In Iraq

Add 100,000 contractors to the size of the occupation force in Iraq.

There are about 100,000 government contractors operating in Iraq, not counting subcontractors, a total that is approaching the size of the U.S. military force there, according to the military's first census of the growing population of civilians operating in the battlefield.

The survey finding, which includes Americans, Iraqis and third-party nationals hired by companies operating under U.S. government contracts, is significantly higher and wider in scope than the Pentagon's only previous estimate, which said there were 25,000 security contractors in the country.

Those 100,000 contractors do the work that conventional soldiers would otherwise do. Therefore their number belongs in a count of the total forces in Iraq. As of October 2006 over 162 thousand troops from several nations were in Iraq. So the total order of battle - not including Iraqi soldiers - is over a quarter million.

These numbers make me wonder whether even Rand Corp. analysts James Quinlivan and James Dobbins underestimated the number of soldiers needed to occupy Iraq. While pre-invasion Anthony Zinni at Centcom was claiming a need for 350,000 to 380,000 soldiers pre-war Dobbins was claiming a full half million were needed and he said 1 soldier is needed per 50 civilians. But we effectively have half that number now (with another 20,000 or so likely to be sent soon to little effect) and I have a hard time imagining that doubling that number would bring Iraq under control.

The United States can not bring order to Iraq - at least not for a cost that is anywhere near a price the American people would be willing to pay. The conflict will continue while the American people continue to go through a very slow and limited learning process. If our elites were not so fundamentally wrong and dishonest in their public pronouncements about human nature we could go up the learning curve a whole lot quicker. But instead we'll have to lose many more lives and hundreds of billions of dollars.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 December 17 09:35 AM  MidEast Iraq Military Needs

Dan Morgan said at December 18, 2006 8:19 AM:

I have been arguing for quite awhile that the US should be moving toward an "internal withdrawal" of US forces on to large bases in Iraq. From there they can still help substantially with training, intelligence gathering, logistics, and so on. This is one way to get our troops out of harm's way and it forces Iraqis to take responsibility for their own security.

Marine Major Ben Connable today an a NYT op-ed piece warns of what happens when our troops leave areas:

"American presence might be likened to a control rod in a nuclear reactor: Leave it in place and the potential energy of the insurgents and criminals is mostly kept in check; remove it and the energy becomes kinetic. Withdrawal of United States presence from any town or city in Anbar will almost certainly lead to the creation of safe havens for western Iraq’s impenetrable snarl of foreign fighters, nationalist insurgents and local thugs. Many abandoned cities and towns would come to closely resemble the Falluja of mid-2004."

And on an internal withdrawal:

"'Redeployed' in large bases far from the enemy centers of gravity, American troops wouldn’t be able to keep insurgent groups from forming semi-conventional units. This pattern has repeated itself countless times across Iraq and follows historic guerrilla-warfare models: insurgents exploit any safe haven to strengthen and train their forces. The longer they are left alone, the stronger they become. As our presence in the countryside diminishes, our ability to gather intelligence and to protect valuable infrastructure, communications lines and friendly tribal areas will deteriorate rapidly."


beowulf said at December 18, 2006 1:49 PM:

Well, if you're trying to get a one soldier to 50 Iraqi ratio, you could subtract the friendly Kurdish population (20% of Iraq) which can police itself. But I don't think its fair to say Zinni underestimated the troops required to pacify Iraq. Think of civil war as like a fire. A small fire takes fewer firefighters than a huge blaze. The sooner you can stomp on it, the less chance it has to get out of control.

Borat said at December 18, 2006 3:35 PM:

something unrelated for Randell:


Randall Parker said at December 18, 2006 6:46 PM:

Dan Morgan,

I take Major Connable at his word. So then what? The Sunnis aren't about to start behaving themselves. The Shias aren't willing to fight in Sunni areas. Are we supposed to stay there forever?

My sense of it is that we could triple US troops and contractors in Iraq, get the total up to three quarters of a million, get control of large areas, and then well, what then? Stay forever? The moment we left they'd start up fighting again.


Remember it was under control under Saddam. He was willing to kill whole families. A guy steps out of line. The family gets killed. The house gets bulldozed and the rubble left as a reminder. Very effective. But we aren't willing to do that.

The fact that the Kurds are policing their own area makes the ratio of Iraqis to US troops lower than it seems at first glance. I think the Iraqis are a lot harder to occupy than the Serbians and Albanians.

Stephen said at December 18, 2006 8:01 PM:

Randall said: A guy steps out of line. The family gets killed. The house gets bulldozed and the rubble left as a reminder.

Bulldozers?? You are so old fashioned Randall. The modern way is to call in a tactical air strike.

Snouck said at December 20, 2006 2:22 AM:

On whose budget are these contractors in Iraq? An Iraqi budget? US? Both?



Stephen said at December 20, 2006 4:51 PM:

Snouck, take a guess...

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