17,000 More Troops to Afghanistan (Updated)

As has been expected President Obama announced yesterday that more U. S. troops will be sent to Afghanistan:

WASHINGTON — President Obama said Tuesday that he would send an additional 17,000 American troops to Afghanistan this spring and summer, putting his stamp firmly on a war that he has long complained is going in the wrong direction.

The order will add nearly 50 percent to the 36,000 American troops already there. A further decision on sending more troops will come after the administration completes a broader review of Afghanistan policy, White House officials said.

Mr. Obama said in a written statement that the increase was “necessary to stabilize a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, which has not received the strategic attention, direction and resources it urgently requires.”

This comes as no surprise: then-Senator Obama campaigned on devoting more attention and resources to Afghanistan.

As I understand the current strategy in Afghanistan it is to apply enough force there to prevent the Taliban and Al Qaeda from reestablishing themselves there and to produce a national government in Kabul that’s strong enough and has the resources to take on the task themselves, presumably so that NATO forces can leave. Contra the Bush Administration, in the Obama Administration’s view the Kabul government need not be a democratic one so long as they have what it takes to prevent a return to the status quo ante.

Prevailing COIN doctrine says that will require more than 400,000 troops. I see no willingness whatever on the part of the U. S. or our NATO allies to put that large a force in Afghanistan and, as I’ve pointed out ad nauseam, there’s no way for us to supply such a force even if we would put it there.

Afghanistan was constructed by Russian and British mapmakers as a buffer between British India and the Russian Empire. It has little history as a country, is composed of tribes that historically have fought amongst each other, and which have neither a common language, culture, history, or lineage. Afghanistan is the size of Texas, has a population larger than Iraq’s, and is predominantly rural, its people pursuing in subsistence agriculture or raising opium poppies as a cash crop. I see no way that Afghanistan will produce a strong central government capable of keeping the Taliban and Al Qaeda out in the foreseeable future.

Will 17,000 additional troops endear us more or less to the Afghans? As I see it the larger the footprint, the less tolerable our presence is to Afghanistan’s population.


There’s one more point that I wanted to mention. I don’t believe that our NATO allies are likely to pony up more forces of their own if they see more commitment on our part. Quite to the contrary, I think they’re likely to withdraw their own forces as the number of U. S. forces in Afghanistan increases. There’s very little domestic support for the action in Afghanistan in most of the NATO allies and I believe that most of them have already committed as much support as they’re likely to.

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Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.


  1. markm says:

    Not to get off topic….but Afghanistan is a shovel ready project. Boots on the ground need a LOT of wares made in the USandA…and I mean LOTS of various items. There are tons of small businesses from coast to coast that make the items they will need.

    As I see it the larger the footprint, the less tolerable our presence is to Afghanistan’s population.

    I’ve read a few articles and one spot on the evening news saying they are tiring of our presence.

  2. Bill says:

    As I see it the larger the footprint, the less tolerable our presence is to Afghanistan’s population.

    Apologies, but a fatuous line. Civilian casualties (resulting from bad intel, air power or some combination) and no civil governance/reconstruction progress are what makes a US presence less tolerable, not an increased US troop presence of 17,000. Which, depending on MOS, is too little to fundamentally shift the war, admittedly.

  3. DavidL says:

    In war indecision kills. Lyndon Johnson bungled Vietnam because while did not want to the first President to lose a war, he refused to fight the war to win. Is Barack Obama creating his own Vietnam, refusing to either quit or commit to winning? The general wanted thirty thousand. Obama sends seventeen.