More Troops in Afghanistan!
The U. S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, warns of dire consequences if he doesn’t get more troops:
Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal says emphatically: “Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months) — while Afghan security capacity matures — risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible.”
His assessment was sent to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Aug. 30 and is now being reviewed by President Obama and his national security team.
McChrystal concludes the document’s five-page Commander’s Summary on a note of muted optimism: “While the situation is serious, success is still achievable.”
Over what timeframe and at what cost that success might be accomplished remains murky.
Although asking for more resources is a time-proven tactic for generals who don’t know what else to do, I don’t doubt Gen. McChrystal’s sincerity. I think he’s right that the mission, as it is apparently being defined, is likely impossible without significantly more American troops. Conventional counter-insurgency doctrine suggests that there should be more than 400,000 troops in Afghanistan. Having Afghanistan itself provide the necessary forces would require it to, roughly, double its military, it’s taken it eight years to come up with the military it’s got, and it will probably be harder and take longer to increase it from here on out.
Consider just one limiting factor: non-commissioned officers. The American way of war (which is, of course, what we’re promulgating) requires a large, capable body of non-commissioned officers. Non-coms must be literate. Afghanistan’s literacy rate is quite low, 28.1%, and the military isn’t the only institution that requires literacy nor is it the most prestigious nor grant the highest rate of pay.
So more American forces will be needed and will be needed for the foreseeable future.
I’ve already made my prescription: change the mission to something that can be accomplished successfully with a smaller footprint.
Having appointed Gen. McChrystal to his post, with the full knowledge the Gen. McChrystal would advocate a counter-insurgency strategy in Afghanistan, and given conventional counter-insurgency doctrine, I think it will be difficult for President Obama to deny him more troops. But he’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. The more American troops in an active role defending the Afghans, the more American casualties, and the more political pressure to withdraw from Afghanistan.