It appears there will be a “surge” in Afghanistan to go along with the proposed 32,000 additional troops for Iraq. The generals have reportedly asked new SECDEF Bob Gates for “3,500 more American troops as well as about 1,000 more troops from NATO allies” and he is inclined to go along.
Still, the move is not without controversy.
Any significant increase in the current force levels in Afghanistan of 21,000 American troops and 20,000 from other NATO countries could be problematic for the United States Army, which has been strained by deployments over the last five years and is struggling to come up with the new forces for Iraq.
Mr. Gates’s openness to adding troops to Afghanistan as well as Iraq is a sharp contrast to the approach of his predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld, who argued for holding down force levels to speed two countries toward taking the lead in military operations on their soil.
Mr. Gates has indicated that he favored aggressive action to root out the Taliban, the country’s ousted former rulers. American officials have said in recent days that Taliban fighters are mounting increasingly brazen cross-border attacks from Pakistan and are preparing to intensify attacks in the spring. “There’s no reason to sit back and let the Taliban regroup,” Mr. Gates said. “I think it’s very important that we not let this success in Afghanistan slip away from us.”
General Pace, who accompanied Mr. Gates during his stopover in Afghanistan, has also seemed open to troop increases. “Clearly any kind of deployment of force is going to add to the short-term strain,” he said Wednesday. But it was possible, he said, that additional troops for Afghanistan would produce “a success, so you have to have less stress on the force for a longer period of time.”
Quite right. Indeed, if it comes to that, I’d argue we should reduce the Iraq “surge” by whatever number was deemed necessary for Afghanistan. Not only is stopping the re-emergence of the Taliban arguably more vital to our security interests than the survival of Iraq as a unitary state, it has a far higher probability of success.