General Stanley McChrystal proposed a “low risk” option to the White House calling for an additional 80,000 troops in Afghanistan.
Nancy Youssef and Jonathan Landay at McClatchy report: “The low risk option, which [top commander in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal] has said offers the best chance to contain the Taliban-led insurgency and stabilize Afghanistan, calls for 80,000 additional U.S. troops, while his medium risk option puts the number at 40,000 to 45,000, [U.S.] officials said.”
They add that the U.S. can only send an additional 30,000 troops “without putting excessive strains on the Army and Marine Corps” and report that Gen. McChrystal says that such a plan would not suffice:
“This is a fully resourced COIN (counter-insurgency) strategy with the low-risk option,” one official said. The current Army counterinsurgency manual, however, estimates that an all-out COIN campaign in a country with Afghanistan’s population would require about 600,000 troops.
Some 20,000 additional forces would be deployed under McChrystal’s high-risk option, but that would mean the greatest risk of failure, the same official said. There now are 67,000 U.S. troops and 52,000 coalition forces in Afghanistan….
“McChrystal has already said that the status quo cannot be sustained,” the U.S. military official pointed out, referring to a separate assessment written by the U.S. commander that described the situation in Afghanistan as “dire.” It was delivered to Obama last month.
In that assessment, McChrystal argued for more resources.
“Our campaign in Afghanistan has been historically under-resourced and remains so today. Almost every aspect of our collective effort and associated resourcing has lagged behind a growing insurgency,” he wrote. “Resources will not win this war, but under-resourcing could lose it.”
Military sources have said that Gen. McChrystal’s ‘adequately resourced’ COIN strategy calls for 500,000 troops, including a 400,000-man Afghan Security Forces (A.S.F.), consisting of the Afghan National Army plus the Afghan National Police, which is currently—liberally—estimated around 170,000. Commenting on that report, my extremely conservative (lowball) assessment was that an additional troop increase of about 100,000 to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is necessary just to increase the A.S.F. to 400,000 officers able to operate—at least—to the degree of the current forces and meet Gen McChrystal’s goal to “‘reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (12 months)’ not to reach the overall endgame” of his stated mission.
I’m not familiar with the algorithm which proves the official quoted as saying 600,000 troops are necessary, but see little reason to distrust the official’s assessment. I confessed that my estimate was—not only conservative, but—heavily influenced by my research on the Iraq Surge because the chatter surrounding the Afghan Surge has been that it would mirror that surge crafted by General David Petraeus and implemented by the Bush Administration. This is flawed for many reasons—some of which I use to criticize The Washington Post‘s (WaPo) relation to the Iraq Surge in attempting to sell Gen. McChrystal’s request.
Jason Ditz, news editor at AntiWar.com, writes on the McClatchy report: “The rub, however, is that with 68,000 US troops already in Afghanistan and 120,000+ still in Iraq, in addition to all of America’s assorted other imperial requirements around the world, the US military simply doesn’t have anywhere near the number of additional troops just lying around that the general wants to throw at the eight year long conflict.”
Overall, the COIN strategy is created to “buy some time”—as David Ignatius at the WaPo wrote—and little more, arguing that “stabilizing the whole country is Mission Impossible”. It will just heavily mobilize U.S. troops from Iraq to Afghanistan and exponentially increase the military footprint of other NATO collaborators. The Nobel Committee was very clear in why it gave President Barack Obama the Peace Prize, saying it was for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples“. In Afghanistan, such “extraordinary efforts” are classic naïveté on the part of the so-called ‘liberal intelligentsia’ in the West: a blanket attempt to spread the blood on the hands of more nation-states before the inevitable Vietnam-esque withdrawal in the hopes that the blowback will be lesser concentrated on the U.S.
It’s difficult to argue with Gen. McChrystal’s assessment that anything less than a ‘fully resourced COIN strategy’ is “likely to result in failure”. The ‘lower risk’ options just ‘buy more time’ than the others. There is no military ‘solution’ to Afghanistan. Growing the military footprint of the U.S. is a reckless course.