msnbc’s Andrea Mitchell reports that–according to military sources–redacted in the report [.pdf] submitted to the Pentagon by the top U.S.-NATO commander, General Stanley McChrystal, is the assessment that 500,000 troops are needed in Afghanistan between the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the Afghan National Army (A.N.A.). By this fall, the U.S. share of the—over 100,000-troop—ISAF coalition is to be around 68,000 and the A.N.A. is currently numbered at around 92,000 (0:53):
This figure was not in the redacted report leaked to Bob Woodward at The Washington Post last Sunday evening. Mr. Woodward reports: Gen. McChrystal “proposes speeding the growth of Afghan security forces… from 92,000 to 134,000 by December 2011…. to move that deadline to October 2010”; “Overall, McChrystal wants the Afghan army to grow to 240,000 and the police to 160,000”—from the 80,000 members of the Afghan National Police (A.N.P.), as of June 2009—“for a total security force of 400,000.” Jason Ditz at AntiWar.com reports: “Citing targets imposed on the nation by the United States, the Afghan Defense Ministry reports that it is now drawing up a plan to impose conscription on the war torn nation as a way of meeting the U.S. requirements,” adding:
U.S. General McChrystal says it is important to avoid the appearance of being an occupation force, but with his policy edicts essentially poised to force tens if not hundreds of thousands of Afghans into forced combat fighting a war on the behalf of the U.S. it seems impossible to see it any other way.
The number floating around over the last week has been that of 40,000 troops requested to be added to the ISAF in 2010. That number is being mistaken for Gen. McChrystal’s formal request. The number—40,000—is what “Kimberly and Fred Kagan, defense analysts who helped McChrystal prepare his assessment of the war” are estimating are needed “to pursue counterinsurgency strategy”—known as COIN—according to Julian Barnes and Mark Magnier’s report at the Los Angeles Times stating: “It is unclear how many troops Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal requested”, adding:
There are about 64,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, but only about 23,200 are conducting counterinsurgency missions, the report says. At the height of the U.S. military buildup in Iraq, 105,000 troops were directly involved in counterinsurgency operations there.
Today, Mr. Woodward continues to note that the request has not yet been made and that it is “according to sources” Gen. McChrystral “will request 10,000 to 40,000” troops. If President Obama wants an Iraq-type surge in Afghanistan, at least 75,000 troops would have to be added to the COIN operations. To meet Gen. McChrystal’s goal of a 240,000-troop A.N.A. and a 160,000-deep A.N.P., at least 60,000 troops would have to be added on top of the 75,000 needed for COIN operations.
My conservative estimate from these reports: an Obama-McChrystal-Petraeus COIN strategy requires an ISAF force around 200,000 troops. And that’s just to reach the general’s stated goal to “reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (12 months)”, not to reach the overall endgame of the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan, which has not been determined going into its ninth year of operation. This estimate is highly conservative in that it’s ignorant of one of the most—if not the most—significant tactic of the so-called “Bush-McCain-Petraeus” Iraq Surge to reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term: bribing leaders of what was classified as the insurgency in Iraq. Countering the so-called “Taliban-led insurgency” is much more multi-faceted and—most likely— not operational by such a clear cut hierarchy as that faced U.S. troops in Iraq.