Posts Tagged ‘Gen. McChrystal’s Strategy in Afghanistan’

What is the US Strategy in Afghanistan?

October 7, 2009

Yesterday, President Obama met with Congressional leaders of both parties to discuss the situation in Afghanistan.  The president is considering a request by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan, for 40,000 more US troops to battle the Taliban and other militants.

Republicans generally favor sending more troops immediately.

Sen. John McCain, a fervert advocate for a larger American military presence, told the president “Time is not on our side.  This should not be a leisurely process.”  He later said “Half measures is what I worry about,” and argued that they “lead to failure over time and an erosion of American public support.”

But many leading Democrats are wary of deploying more soldiers and Marines.

Sen. Carl Levin, who has proposed accelerating training for Afghan security forces rather than sending more Americans to fight, said “There were a number of people who spoke out with a lot of caution about getting in deeper and what the end point is.”

Sen. John Kerry said “It would be irresponsible” to send more troops before ascertaining “what is possible in Afghanistan.”

There are basically three options for the Obama administration when it comes to force size in Afghanistan: reduce the US military presence; maintain current troop levels; or deploy more soldiers and Marines.

The prudent choice depends on what strategy the administration wants to pursue.  Some have suggested that the US focus almost exclusively on counterterrorism missions and rely mainly on special operations forces, including drone aircraft, to eliminate Al Qaeda members in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area.  Such a strategy would require fewer American troops.

President Obama has already ruled out that potentiality.

A senior administration official said “There is no option that would entail a dramatic reduction in troops.”

Gen. McChrystal is largely focused on counterinsurgency operations against the Taliban and the Haqqani network, and he wants more forces to protect Afghan civilians and decrease the size of the territory that militants control.  A long-term nationbuilding strategy would also require a larger military presence to provide security for governmental and non-governmental personnel.

A middle-ground strategy would be to continue, or increase, special operations against Al Qaeda and simply use regular forces to prevent the Taliban from completely retaking large swathes of Afghanistan.  It would constitute a more balanced mix of counterterrorism and counterinsurgency efforts.  Current troop levels might be sufficient to accomplish that mission in the near-to-medium-term.

The latter two strategies would ultimately require training large numbers of Afghan forces to take responsibility for securing the country.  It is doubtful that such a task could be accomplished in the foresseable future as Sen. Levin hopes because most Afghan recruits are illiterate, which makes it impossible to use training manuals.  In addition, the Afghan National Police is an organization plagued by corruption which will be difficult to curb.

President Obama is expected to make a decision about Gen. McChrystal’s proposal as early as this weekend.  Before he does so, the administration needs to more clearly define the American strategy in Afghanistan because strategy will determine how many troops are needed.