WASHINGTON, July 21 (UPI) -- U.S. and coalition troops have have numbered at least 250,000 in Iraq to provide security in the immediate aftermath of the war, the Rand Corp. said.
Rand, a major think tank, calculates that for security and stability in the "golden period" immediately following the invasion and the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime, the coalition should have deployed 1,000 troops for every 100,000 inhabitants. It bases this on an analysis of previous peacekeeping missions that have been successful - notably, Kosovo and East Timor.
"Establishing security in the short-run is critical to avert chaos and prevent criminal and insurgent organizations from establishing a foothold," it said in a new report, "Establishing Law and Order After Conflict."
The United States did not deploy additional troops in the immediate aftermath of major fighting based on the assumption by the Bush administration that the country would be largely relieved and happy to be free of the repressive Saddam Hussein regime.
The report puts forward "very rough guidelines" for establishing post-conflict security.
"They suggest that U.S.-led efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan have not met most of these minimum resource levels," the report states.
Roughly 145,000 U.S. troops crossed into Iraq. Over the last two years that number has increased to 165,000 and then dropped to about 120,000. There are now about 138,000 troops in Iraq -- still more than 100,000 fewer than Rand says is reasonable for assuring security.
The U.S. military is hoping to fill in those gaps with the training of Iraqi security forces.
It continues to deal with the ramifications of the mistakes of the thinly staffed post-war period: by November 2003 the insurgency had become organized and widespread through the center of the country and U.S. forces were -- and are -- spread very thinly to deal with the threat. The insurgency has targeted critical infrastructures, government leaders, and is increasingly attacking civilian targets to destabilize the government and discredit coalition troops.
In the intervening two years, U.S. forces have been conducting intensive counter-insurgency operations and training Iraqi security forces with slow and varying degrees of success. There are about 171,000 Iraqis trained and equipped. About 50,000 are deemed capable of conducting relatively independent operations against insurgents, although most still rely heavily on U.S. back up.
The U.S. military made a different calculation in Afghanistan, where only several thousand U.S. forces were deployed for the war to rid the country of the Taliban and attack al Qaida, and about 20,000 are there consistently for post-war reconstruction and stability operations.
However, much of the Afghan war was fought with existing Northern Alliance and war lord militia soldiers. One senior U.S. military official estimated their numbers at around 70,000.
The author of the Rand study, Seth Jones, told UPI that is still too few forces. By its calculations Afghanistan would also need about 250,000 troops.
" There were far too few forces there in general. The security situation in Afghanistan now is in pretty bad shape. Insurgent attacks have increased significantly -- 200 percent since 2002," Jones said.
There is a fair amount of organized crime as well. Jones, who has spent research time in Afghanistan in recent months, said the roads are so dangerous at night from criminals that coalition forces will only travel at night by helicopter. Non-governmental organizations are regularly targeted.
Moreover, there has been a 100 percent increase in opium cultivation and production from 2002 to 2004.
"The security situation in Afghanistan has deteriorarited in the last two years," Jones said.
One factor influencing the small number of U.S. forces was a reluctance to repeat the mistakes of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Chief among the lessons was to avoid a massive occupation.
"Most people who went for a low footprint tend to make that argument," Jones said. "It's possible there might have been some groups who would not be particularly happy (about a U.S. occupation) but the key is how you go in and do it.
"If you put an Afghan face on most of that work -- which is what we've done, when the U.S. took Kabul and Kandahar the Afghan national army was in the lead -- the high number (of troops) with a significant Afghan role would not have led to a major resistance," Jones said.
"The history of these sorts of cases is clear: there were large numbers (of occupation troops) in Germany and Japan after World War II, and large numbers in Bosnia, Kosovo and East Timor, and there was no major insurgency," Jones said.