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More Surge Math
Posted by: mcq on Friday, January 12, 2007

Some funny numbers are flying around out there. Dean Barnett takes Andrew Sullivan to task about his "analysis". From Barnett's "FAQ - The Surge":
Take Andrew Sullivan. Please. In his “analysis” of the speech last night, Andrew tossed around troop figures without having the faintest idea of what he was talking about:
“If the president tonight had outlined a serious attempt to grapple with this new situation - a minimum of 50,000 new troops as a game-changer - then I'd eagerly be supporting him. But he hasn't. 21,500 U.S. troops is once again, I fear, just enough troops to lose.”
6) What’s wrong with that? Andrew wanted 50,000 troops. Big deal.

Mentioning a troop number without saying what those troops are going to do is an intellectually vacant and frivolous exercise. It’s a low form of positional bargaining, throwing out numbers without attaching those numbers to anything concrete. If Andrew’s going to hurl out the number 50,000, he should give a hint as to what he’s going to do with those 50,000. He should also specify why he thinks 20,000 isn’t an adequate number for the task at hand.

7) Which is?

Pacifying Baghdad.

8) Where did the number 21,500 come from?

Out of a hat. Just kidding. But that is where figures like Andrew’s 50,000 came from.

The surge strength number comes from Dave Petraeus’ estimate of what will be necessary to win Baghdad. Petraeus is breaking Baghdad into nine neighborhoods. Each neighborhood will get a contingent of 2500 Iraqi soldiers (probably ones trained by Petraeus) supported by 600 American troops. This number, the plan figures, will be sufficient to clear the neighborhoods and then hold them. In previous encounters, we would clear and retreat. This is a very significant difference. The total surge into Baghdad, counting Iraqi troops, will be well over 40,000.
OK, wait a minute. Baghdad is a city of 5.5 million. 9 neighborhoods. That means if the city is evenly divided by population into those 9 neighborhoods that each will have 611,111 people.

And we're going to put a total of 3,100 soldiers combined? That's not even close to enough. So methinks Dean may have not understood the numbers either.

Per our new counterinsurgency doctrine, as I pointed out here, we set as a minimum 20 soldiers per 1,000 population. For a population of 611,111 that is 12,222 soldiers. So at a minimum, per our doctrine, each neighborhood must have 4 times as many soldiers as Barnett is claiming will be there if they ever hope to clear and hold.

Obviously 17,500 soldiers isn't enough (21,500 - 4,000 for al Anbar province).

More numbers. How big is a brigade?
* Heavy brigades will have about 3,700 troops and be equivalent to a mechanized infantry brigade.
* Infantry brigades will have around 3,300 troops and be equivalent to a light infantry or airborne brigade.
* Stryker brigades will have around 3,900 troops and be based around the Stryker family of vehicles.
For the purposes of this exercise figure 3,500 as an average. So we have a 21,500 troop surge, minus 4,000 from that for al Anbar and that leaves 17,500 (which President Bush said was 5 brigades (which interestingly enough divides out into 3,500 each). Per an article in USA Today we have 24,000 troops already there or most of 7 brigades. Consequently we'll have a total, give or take a few bodies, of 12 brigades in Baghdad.

So we'll be able to deploy a brigade plus in each neighborhood (4,600).

Now, what did President Bush say the Iraqis were throwing into the pot? 18 brigades. How nice. It makes the math even easier. That's 2 Iraqi brigades per neighborhood.

Assuming about the same size for the Iraqi brigades, we're looking at 7,000 Iraqi ISF forces for a total of 11,600 combined US/Iraqi troops per neighborhood.

Bottom line ... we're still, on average, about 600 short (about a battalion) of even the minimum we call for in our own doctrine but nowhere near as short as Barnett's numbers.

I don't see that as particularly good but it isn't at all as bad as the numbers Dean was quoting. My guess is after an initial assessment, there'll be some adjustments among neighborhoods with the hottest getting more troops and perhaps the most peaceful needing less (one must remember, as planners in the military are constantly reminded, our doctrine is a guideline, but each situation is different and therefore doctrine may need to be modified to fit the situaiton. Or said another way, 10,500 may be enough).

OTOH, we also have to remember we still have 47,000 other combat troops in Iraq not involved in Baghdad proper. That is where the difference may end up coming from, if they're needed. We're talking 5,400 troops total to reach that minimum. As stated, my guess is some neighborhoods will be relatively easy to clear and hold while others will be a bear and thus you'll see some internal adjustments among those total numbers.

With that sort of a force, and assuming all the promised Iraqi brigades show up and are actually worth a crap (see USA Today article cited above), there is actually a legitimate chance this may work. It won't be quick and it won't be easy, but it just might work.

Don't mistake this, in particular, for enthusiasm from me for fighting a counterinsurgency. I'm not at all happy about that. But it appears they are lining up the numbers correctly ... and that is a very important first step. But there are a whole bunch of other things which have to line up as well, most of them in the category of "political will" for this to have a real shot.
 
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Comments
What about these provinces we’re handing over to iraqi’s. Won’t that continuing process free up more soldiers?
 
Written By: ChrisB
URL: http://
Exactly, which are the 47,000 I’m alluding too. If we’re going to hand over all provinces by November, I’d assume some are closer to being ready than others to be handed over now. I’d guess that’s where any more troops necessary would come from.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://qando.net
I remain appalled that we’re drawing troops from Afghanistan to meet the surge in Iraq. Use Petraeus’ numbers for Afghanistan - a country of 31 million with a measley 30,000 soldiers, thousands of which are being reassigned to Iraq.

Furthermore, and I hate to be the one to point this out, but what good does pacifying Baghdad do? Taking over a single city is wonderful, but we need Bagdad-surge numbers in all the cities to pacify the whole urban landscape. And that still wouldn’t include the rural population, which is the traditional support base for insurgencies anyway.

I hate echoing the crazy leftoids, but it really just seems like we’re adding more cannon fodder... especially when we telegraph our moves weeks ahead of carrying them out. It’s like saying "come kill more of us, and oh yeah we’ll be slightly more concentrated to make it easier."
 
Written By: Josh
URL: http://www.conjecturer.com/weblog
I remain appalled that we’re drawing troops from Afghanistan to meet the surge in Iraq. Use Petraeus’ numbers for Afghanistan - a country of 31 million with a measley 30,000 soldiers, thousands of which are being reassigned to Iraq.
Well unlike Iraq, Afghanistan actually has seasons in which war is waged because of the extremely harsh winters, so it’s not as bad as that when talking about withdrawing troops temporarily from there for Iraq.

OTOH, your point about counterinsurgency ops with 30K is well taken.
Furthermore, and I hate to be the one to point this out, but what good does pacifying Baghdad do? Taking over a single city is wonderful, but we need Bagdad-surge numbers in all the cities to pacify the whole urban landscape. And that still wouldn’t include the rural population, which is the traditional support base for insurgencies anyway.
Almost all of the violence in Iraq is concentrated in and around Baghdad (and al Anbar) now. That’s why.
I hate echoing the crazy leftoids, but it really just seems like we’re adding more cannon fodder... especially when we telegraph our moves weeks ahead of carrying them out. It’s like saying "come kill more of us, and oh yeah we’ll be slightly more concentrated to make it easier."
That’s the gamble Josh ... and it will play out in pretty bloody form is my guess. But, depending on the Iraqis, the numbers involved at least give it a chance.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://qando.net
As I understand it, the 21K Americans will be heavily weighted in a north-south band that is the mixed Sunni-Shia "border zone" in Baghdad and that Petraeus , who wrote the book on COIN will have the troop concentration that he thinks is adequate.

We’ll see. I do like the signals we’re sending the Iranians. I’m quite sure they’ll get their people back faster that they returned ours.
 
Written By: Richard
URL: http://soslies.blogspot.com
Also:

20 soldiers per 1,000 population

A good fraction of that 1,000 population are not on our enemies’ sides.

I’m fairly sure the 1 of 50 relies on most of the 50 being opposed to the 1.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
I guess the seasons of war comment is okay... except that the harsh winters really only apply to the extreme south and east of the country. Which, granted, are where the insurgents are concentrated (and where most border crossings happen). But still, reducing troops by the season is an absolutely silly way to win a war that is being fought on one side with good intentions and on the other side with fear. "We’ll murder your daughters if they go to school" doesn’t vanish just because the local Taliban flee for the winter; rather it leads to a false sense of security if we draw down our troops every January and marvel at how much things improve before the Spring.

As a side note to that discussion, the "harsh winter" in Afghanistan is a fickle thing - sometimes awesome, sometimes wimpy. And we can’t know in advance which it will be, the winter of 2002 which was comparatively mild or another multi-blizzard one. Regardless, gauging your level of commitment based on the weather still sends the message that you’re not serious about the mission - the problem all along in Afghanistan. (And still: 30,000 troops? Who does that?)

As for Anbar... how big is it again? And how will 4,000 troops, no matter their Iraqi supplements, affect that? Much as I pains me to say something similar to Sully, it really does seem like too little, too late. Obviously the 50k number is arbitrary and therefore silly, but still - more is only better if it’s enough, and I just don’t see how 21,500 soldiers is enough for a city of 8 million.
 
Written By: Josh
URL: http://www.conjecturer.com/weblog
The 50,000 troops number Andrew was quoting came from the Iraq Study Group. NRO - Citation The American Prospect. They actually argued the surge should be closer to 100,000 troops to have any impact at all. The unfortunate problem is the military is already stretched to the breaking point and they could only muster 21,500 without doing permanent damage. No matter which way you spin it, the situation is not looking good.
 
Written By: Casey Helbling
URL: http://slurredspeech.com
" Petraeus , who wrote the book on COIN"

He wrote A book on COIN, anyway. There have been innumerable books written on the subject over the years, most of which are obviously gathering dust.


"Well unlike Iraq, Afghanistan actually has seasons in which war is waged because of the extremely harsh winters,"

I thought we got over that seasonal war cr*p a hundred years or so ago. If people can live there, we can fight there. The US and other countries spend large amounts of money training and equipping their forces to fight in all kinds of weather and terrain, including arctic conditions. We should actually have an advantage in extreme conditions due to better training and equipment.


Let’s not forget that all these new troops are only temporary, so if the bad guys want, they can take a nice vacation , maybe do a little traveling until the pressure is off. The numbers may not that important, anyway. Insurgents have been beaten with fewer than the theoretically necessary number of troops, and have won when facing more. In any case, it is extremely difficult to beat an effective insurgency by military means alone, especially transient ones. I am more interested in what we and the Iraqi government will do to eliminate the motives for the bad guys to insurge in the first place.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
If people can live there, we can fight there.
I don’t think you get it. In the off season, we can fight there...but fight who? The other side isn’t gonna show up.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://

 
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