Obama Plans Large Expansion of Afghan Security Forces

Senior Pentagon and administration officials said that President Obama has decided to vastly expand Afghanistan’s security forces in an effort to bring more stability to the war-torn nation.  The plan awaiting presidential approval aims to increase the size of the army to 260,000 soldiers and the national police force to 140,000 officers.  The Afghan army and Afghan National Police currently have 90,000 and 80,000 personnel, respectively.  The total security force would more than double if the plan is enacted.  The expansion is expected to cost between $10 billion and $20 billion over the next seven years.


The concept stems from a desire to combat the growing Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.  President Obama recently ordered the deployment of 17,000 additional US troops to the country, and more soldiers might be sent once the administration completes its ongoing strategy review for Afghanistan-Pakistan.  The US hopes that Afghans can shoulder more of the burden for providing security in areas outside Kabul.



Some fear that a large army could pose a threat to the democratically elected Afghan government.  Recent public opinion polls in Afghanistan indicate that the military is more respected than the central government which is weak and has been plagued with corruption.  American political and military leaders believe that the insurgency poses a greater risk to the government in Kabul than the army, and that the government’s legitimacy is dependent on its ability to protect its citizens. 


Retired Lt. Gen. David Barno, former commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, said “If the government of Afghanistan is going to effectively extend security and the rule of law, it has to have more army boots on the ground and police shoes on the ground.”



The administration’s proposal is similar to one recommended by Max Boot, Frederick Kagan and Kimberly Kagan in an op-ed piece that was published in the New York Times last week (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/13/opinion/13boot.html?scp=3&sq=march%202009%20kagan&st=Search).  They do a nice job of analyzing some of the challenges facing the coalition and offer a strong rationale for increasing the size of US and Afghan forces and remaining committed to the mission. 


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