Iraqi Insurgents Now Outnumber Coalition Forces
Iraqi insurgents now outnumber coalition forces (Times of London)
IRAQÃ¢€™S rapidly swelling insurgency numbers 200,000 fighters and active supporters and outnumbers the United States-led coalition forces, the head of the countryÃ¢€™s intelligence service said yesterday. The number is far higher than the US military has so far admitted and paints a much grimmer picture of the challenge facing the Iraqi authorities and their British and American backers as elections loom in four weeks. Ã¢€œI think the resistance is bigger than the US military in Iraq. I think the resistance is more than 200,000 people,Ã¢€ General Muhammad Abdullah Shahwani, director of IraqÃ¢€™s new intelligence services, said.
Bomb attacks killed another 18 people yesterday, almost all of them members of the security services, and the head of the Baghdad division of the Iraqi National Guard admitted that his paramilitary police force had been infiltrated by people who are leaking information to the guerrillas.
General Shahwani said that there were at least 40,000 hardcore fighters attacking US and Iraqi troops, with the bulk made up of part-time guerrillas and volunteers providing logistical support, information, shelter and money. Ã¢€œPeople are fed up after two years without improvement,Ã¢€ he said. Ã¢€œPeople are fed up with no security, no electricity, people feel they have to do something. The army (dissolved by the American occupation authority) was hundreds of thousands. YouÃ¢€™d expect some veterans would join with their relatives, each one has sons and brothers.Ã¢€
While this report is disturbing, my gut tells me that no one has any idea how large the insurgency is. Jim Henley is right:
It’s probably a swag. There’s a chance that General Shahwani has something to gain by wildly overestimating the numbers of his (declared) enemies. (“[Shahwani] admitted that his paramilitary police force had been infiltrated by people who are leaking information to the guerrillas.”) But here’s a brief history of estimates of the size of the insurgency:
Summer 2003 – There’s no insurgency! Just some bandits.
Winter 2004 – A few hundred to a couple thousand dead=enders.
Summer 2004 – As many as 5,000.
Fall 2004 – Up to 20,000.
Winter 2005 – About 40,000 dedicated, up to 160,000 kibitzers.
Summer 2005 – ?
Our handling of the issue has left something to be desired. I can understand why we would want to give the impression that the insurgency is small in order to give Iraqis the confidence to go about their daily lives–not to mention maintaining domestic support for the operation. Still, understating the problem can certainly backfire in terms of lost credibility if people’s daily experiences belie the government talking points.
That said, my guess is that the “40,000 dedicated, up to 160,000 kibitzers” figure is in the ballpark, at least in terms of ratios. The vast number of “fighters” are almost certainly soft supporters of the insurgency that are doing so for the same reasons that youth in our inner cities join street gangs–anger at the establishment and fear of being outside the organization. If this month’s elections are successful and a truly independent Iraqi government can begin to turn the tide against the insurgency, it will evaporate. We’ve learned in two wars that Iraqis have no taste for fighting when the going gets rough.