“So what sort of force should the United States leave behind in Iraq to contain AQI? Colonel Pat Lang, a former top official at the Defense Intelligence Agency who is a critic of the Bush administration (and an Arabic speaker), argues that the United States should at a minimum leave a force of around 30,000, including a reinforced division of around 20,000 soldiers, thousands to handle supply and logistics, and a Special Forces component of around 500. In addition to combating Al Qaeda, such a force would have to perform an array of tasks, including protecting the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and gathering critical intelligence on the ground that cannot be collected effectively from neighboring countries. This September Secretary of Defense Robert Gates came up with a similar estimate for the residual force needed in Iraq, proposing a long-term force of at least 17,500 combat troops.” Bergen and Cruikshank
I suppose I should explain the logic of my numbers again. I think the great “bulk” of the coalition force in Iraq should be gone by the mid-term US election of 2010. My estimate of what would make a reasonable residual force after that is based on the assumption that there would be an Iraqi government considered legitimate by the US and the UN and that government would want a continuing US presence for a few additional years. I would not think it wise to keep the residual force in Iraq more than five additional years (i.e. until no longer than 2015). Assuming (plans are built on assumptions) that this Iraqi govenment wants the US to continue training its troops, then it follows from that that there will have to be some hundreds of trainers, hundreds more of logistics people (some may be civilians) and therefore a robust security force to defend those people as well as the embassy crowd.
Military plans should be built to enable success and survival under the most adverse conditions imaginable. To do otherwise is to invite disaster. The “worst case” in Iraq would involve a general uprising against our remaining forces with the active intervention (direct or indirect) of Iran. A planning assumption like that is not a prediction. It is merely a planning assumption. With such an assumption and the need based on that assumption of defending our people and securing supply and exit routes from Iraq, I estimate that a reinforced division of troops (around 20,000) would be needed. pl