Troop Surge for Afghanistan?

BY Herschel Smith
8 years ago

Similar to the opposition to the surge in Iraq, the chorus of voices calling for a military stand-down in Afghanistan are growing.  There is the classical “we can’t win” approach, analogous to the “insurgencies cannot be beaten” meme (regardless of the fact that the insurgency has essentially been beaten in Iraq).  Then there is the “we must educate the extremists out of their extremism” approach.  In this version of the problem, the root of the extremism becomes disenfranchisement, poverty, and valid grievances which require redress (regardless of the example of Bangladesh, which is 90% Muslim and one of the poorest nations on earth, but without the violent extremism).  There are other stupid arguments for a draw-down of troops (or leaving a very small military footprint) over which we won’t waste our time.

But The Captain’s Journal has been advocating increased forces and force projection for more than half a year, along with a change in the command structure and the implementation of a comprehensive strategy.  Finally, we have also pointed out that regardless of the fact that Pakistan is no apparent ally in the fight against the Taliban, Afghanistan is the first and primary place to engage them, with U.S. military pressure resulting in Pakistani commitment to the campaign.

It sounds as if Admiral Mullen has been listening to The Captain’s Journal rather than the other arguments.  “It’s very clear that additional (US) troops will have a big impact on insurgents coming across that border,” Mullen asserted Wednesday.  Gates is also looking for an increase in troops.

The US is looking for ways to send more troops to Afghanistan amid a resurgence of violence in the country nearly seven years after the ousting of the -Taliban regime.

Robert Gates, US defence secretary, said the Pentagon was “working very hard to see if there are opportunities to send additional forces sooner rather than later”.

His comments, late on Wednesday, increased the likelihood of further reductions in US troop levels in Iraq later this year to free up forces for Afghanistan.

Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he expected to recommend additional withdrawals from Iraq in early autumn provided recent security gains were sustained.

US commanders in Afghanistan have been appealing for additional troops for months as the insurgency has revived.

Pentagon leaders have made clear that significant increases would have to wait until more troops returned from Iraq but the need to rebalance forces between the two battlefields has become more urgent in recent weeks. Coalition deaths in Afghanistan have exceeded US fatalities in Iraq for the past two months and nine soldiers were killed on Sunday in the deadliest insurgent attack against US forces since 2005.

Briefing reporters after visits to both war zones last week, Admiral Mullen said security was “remarkably better” in Iraq but warned the US faced a “tough and complicated” fight in Afghanistan.

The hand wringing over a large footprint – it’ll cause the population to turn against us, military action cannot win against an insurgency, etc., etc. – has been seen before concerning Iraq.  The meme is getting tired and old, but some “experts” and “analysts” don’t mind sounding tired and old.  Fortunately, Gates and Mullen see the need.  But note that The Captain’s Journal saw this need before the so-called analysts did.  Finally, we say that the campaign needs more than three Brigades (as has been claimed).  But it will take a while to convince the chain of command of our position.

  • Warbucks

    I agree with the Captain that the argument “we must educate the insurgent out of his extreme position” is not a substitute for winning.

    We ride the horns of the ancient dilemma of when to turn the other cheek and when swing the lethal sword of war. Our war machine is designed to deter threat with over powering response and to root out the enemy even in his own sanctuary. The enemy establishes his own fate and he knows how to find our mercy; the Eagle’s right claw is the hand of peace and the left claw the hand of war.

    We are not in “a war”, we are in “wars.” One war is violent, driven by fundamentalists isolated from worldly understanding, currently unproductive as a competitive society, dependent on two resources, oil and opium, and kept ignorant and hateful within a closed belief system driven and expanded by totalitarian suppression and its feeble, cowardly, and evil use of terror. The other war, the 2nd war is its belief system.

    The 2nd war will not be won on the battlefield, but it can be won. The 2nd war is Islamic Reformation.

    There are several paths to Islamic Reformation, and it pays that we help the war critic understand that on this point we agree, we must educate the not the insurgent, but the fundamentalist. The insurgent will be met with force and die. The fundamentalist on the other hand must be taught from within his own belief system (i.e. Islamic Reformation), a process that will take years.

    There are several ways of encouraging Islamic Reformation, but that is another subject. We can help continue the Islamic Reformation process, a process which requires another kind of courage that we can not indulge in on the battlefield to any great extent where force must be met with greater force.

    It is time to seek a symbolic and real closure on one battlefield as we transition into the next: Islamic Reformation

  • Herschel Smith

    Well said.

    Also, there is negative reinforcement. We should be the best in the world at this, but are reluctant to use our influence to any avail. We must find ways to marginalize the extremists – financially, ideologically and in every other way.

    Saudi Arabia continues, for instance, to fund the extremists and the madrassas which births these killers, but every administration has been unwilling to hold the House of Saud responsible for what they do.

    Our State Department, CIA, financial institutions, and every other part of both the state and NGOs must engage, or it will be a losing effort.

You are currently reading "Troop Surge for Afghanistan?", entry #1208 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,Department of Defense and was published July 17th, 2008 by Herschel Smith.

If you're interested in what else the The Captain's Journal has to say, you might try thumbing through the archives and visiting the main index, or; perhaps you would like to learn more about TCJ.

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