"Assessing the Afghan Surge" (Council on Foreign Relations)

 Assessing the Afghan Surge

Dr. Kimberly Kagan's interview with the Council on Foreign Relations
“The strategy that the president [unveiled], with the resources that he has given it, has a reasonable prospect of success. The adoption of a counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan and the continued pursuit of security within Afghanistan are vitally important for U.S. national interests. The addition of thirty thousand troops makes a big difference on the ground, particularly since the senior administration has said that General [Stanley] McChrystal [U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan] will have some control over what the composition of those troops actually is. Meaning the proportion of combat forces, the proportion of trainers, and the proportion of enablers gives McChrystal a degree of flexibility in what resources he gets and how he can apply those resources concretely on the ground to improve security in the areas that he deems critical.
The language that the president used was interesting, because he spoke on the one hand of beginning the withdrawal of U.S. forces in July of 2011, meaning essentially that the surge would begin to recede in that time, [but] he did not describe a pace of drawdown nor did he describe the rate of drawdown or the specific number of troops that needed to be drawn down at any moment. He left it vague. Now I think that it is more difficult for the United States to seem committed to the Afghan people and to the Pakistani people and indeed to the world if we use language and timelines. That said, the language that the president used referred simply to the beginning of a change in U.S. mission.
The enemy, whatever it thinks about the strategy and the course of action that the president has chosen, has to face about one hundred thousand U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, over the next eighteen months. If in fact the enemy would prefer to wait the United States out, the enemy will have much greater difficulty in pursuing that objective with one hundred thousand U.S. forces on the ground plus the coalition allies. And so in a certain sense, it is a little bit of a race against time. General McChrystal will have to increase the level of security in Afghanistan significantly in the next eighteen months, and yet I still believe that there is a reasonable prospect of success, a reasonable prospect that the addition of forces will lead to greater security. And that greater security and the various programs that the United States and its coalition and international partners will undertake will actually have an impact on the way in which the government of Afghanistan functions.”
To read the full article, visit www.CFR.org