IRAQ: THE DECADE AFTERSo, when they voted for the war, they were well aware that it would take a long effort, a "decade," to maintain the peace and rebuild. They had estimates of the number of troops needed that were somewhat low but not drastically off:
By Joseph R. Biden and Chuck Hagel
The United States will face enormous challenges in a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, as well as broad regional questions that must be addressed. ....
Although no one doubts our forces will prevail over Saddam Hussein's, key regional leaders confirm what the Foreign Relations Committee emphasized in its Iraq hearings last summer: The most challenging phase will likely be the day after -- or, more accurately, the decade after -- Saddam Hussein.
Once he is gone, expectations are high that coalition forces will remain in large numbers to stabilize Iraq and support a civilian administration. That presence will be necessary for several years, given the vacuum there, which a divided Iraqi opposition will have trouble filling and which some new Iraqi military strongman must not fill. [emphasis added]
Various experts have testified that as many as 75,000 troops may be necessary, at a cost of up to $ 20 billion a year. That does not include the cost of the war itself, or the effort to rebuild IraqThey did however know about the risks, even comparing Saddam's ethnic cleansing policy to Kosovo:
The northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk is an example of the perils American forces may encounter. It sits atop valuable oil fields and is home to a mixed population of Arabs, Turkmen and Kurds. In recent years, Saddam Hussein has expelled Turkmen and Kurds as part of an "Arabization," or ethnic cleansing, campaign. We toured a refugee camp housing 120,000 displaced people and heard countless stories of brutality and the loss of loved ones. Kirkuk could become the Iraqi version of Mitrovica, the volatile city in Kosovo where the U.N.-led administration has faced the dilemma of forcibly resettling people from various ethnic communities who have been evicted from their homesThe reach a conclusion:
[T]here is no escaping the fact that we face several related, interlocking crises in the region. [emphasis added]The only difference now is that they want to escape.