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126,000 contractors in Iraq

There are about 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. That's still at least 50,000 below the estimate General Shinseki gave Congress before the invasion (his words were "several hundred thousand soldiers" would be necessary to maintain "post-hostilities control" in Iraq). At a House Budget Committee on February 27, 2003, Paul Wolfwitz called that estimate "outlandish" and "wildly off the mark":

There has been a good deal of comment - some of it quite outlandish - about what our postwar requirements might be in Iraq. Some of the higher end predictions we have been hearing recently, such as the notion that it will take several hundred thousand U.S. troops to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq, are wildly off the mark. It is hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself and to secure the surrender of Saddam's security forces and his army - hard to imagine.

In hindsight, we can all see who was wildly off the mark on this one. If the post-invasion force had been closer to Shinseki's recommendation, maybe we wouldn't be in the mess we're in now. But maybe the reason Wolfowitz and the rest of the Bush Administration thought it was ludicrous was because they knew all their buddies' companies would have tens of thousands of contractors in Iraq to help out. 126,000 at the current time.

The New York Times has a piece in today's paper about the "shadow force in Iraq almost as large as the uniformed military". So far, almost a thousand of them have died and thousands more have been wounded. Add that in with American troop loses, and Iraq gets a little more dangerous.

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