More Troops in Afghanistan!

general-stanley-mcchrystalThe 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.

FILED UNDER: Afghanistan War, Uncategorized, , ,
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. Jim Henley says:

    Actually the American Way of War, since the closing days of World War II, requires massive standoff-power to level shit from a safe distance. Good luck to the Afghan Army developing the capability to pull that off.

  2. Wayne says:

    Actually we have used many more smaller unit SOF operations in varying locations since WWII then conventional. The only deal is most of them never makes it into the Press which is good since it helps them accomplish in accomplishing their missions. Those operations usually take years but usually have minimal interference from politicians.

    As for the General’s assessments, the large Government Corruption would be my main concern. If that is not taken care of than all other efforts will be pointless. That was our major problem with Central America and still is in Africa. I won’t go into detail why this is so important for COIN, but trust me it is.

  3. Jim Henley says:

    Wayne, no argument here that government corruption would be a potential showstopper for a COIN endeavor.

    I’m not sure that your argument about “smaller unit SOF oerations” speaks to my point about the American Way of War, though. Frex, in theory, killing an alleged “Al Qaeda operative” in Somalia is a small-unit SOF operation. But whenever you read about one of these targets (and anyone who happens to be standing near them) being “taken out” it’s generally by a predator or airstrike: the SOF operatives on the ground are basically forward observers for over-the-horizon explody-makers.

  4. Wayne says:

    Jim, the SOF Operations you are talking about would fall under “Direct Action”, “Special Reconnaissance” or counterterrorism which is popular with the Hollywood movies and the MSM. They also conduct other types of operations including foreign internal defense (FID) and unconventional warfare (UW) which many will argue UW really doesn’t truly exist but I will leave that debate to another time. However don’t be fool by the SF mission statements because “and whatever else needed” follows the mission statement.

    Anyway, there have been a handful of reports on some of these operations. FID mission in Columbia is one of the few I know that has been publicized. Beyond that I’m not going to get into it more. I know it is a bit cheesy to do so but I probably shouldn’t have brought it up anyway.