Will and Krulak on Afghanistan

In an op-ed piece published Tuesday in the Washington Post, conservative columnist George Will advocated withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/31/AR2009083102912.html).  Gen. Charles Krulak (USMC Ret.) concurred with Mr. Will’s analysis in the form of an e-mail published on Smallwarsjournal.com Wednesday (http://smallwarsjournal.com/documents/krulakwill.pdf). 

Mr. Will and Gen. Krulak argue that the US will need hundreds of thousands of troops to stabilize the country, more than America is capable of deploying for an extended period of time.  They observe that the corrupt nature of Hamid Karzai’s regime will prevent Afghans from supporting the central government.  And they point to the abject poverty and economic stagnation of the country as barriers that will prevent development efforts from succeeding in the foreseeable future.

An an alternative to the current US counterinsurgency strategy, which calls for securing the Afghan population against the Taliban, Mr. Will and Gen. Krulak propose focusing solely on Al Qaeda members operating from Pakistan.  They advocate withdrawing the bulk of American troops and relying on special operations forces, airpower in the form of drone aircraft, fighter-bombers and cruise missiles, intelligence gathering capabilities and hunter-killer teams to strike at Al Qaeda in the border region straddling Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Gen. Krulak creatively suggests that, rather than destroying poppy fields (the main source of income for Afghanistan), the US should buy the crops from Afghan farmers and thereby win their goodwill while preventing their poppy from facilitating the international drug trade.

It appears that President Obama has embraced the “clear, hold and build” strategy that American military commanders in Afghanistan are currently pursuing, and he may soon deploy tens of thousands more soldiers and Marines there.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reportedly supports that idea, while other figures in the administration, such as Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, are wary of large troop commitments.

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