Changing the Support to Infantry Ratio in Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
13 years, 3 months ago

So Bruce Rolston and I had been debating the issue of large versus small footprint in Afghanistan, and Tim Lynch weighs in with this interesting take:

I’d like to clear up my position on the number of troops deployed which, given my tendency to write about things that irritate me, may not seem consistent. In fact I am going to prove my suitability for government service by stating unequivocally that you are both right.

When I write that we are turning the corner in the South I do so because I have seen the Marines there doing what Marines do – figuring out how to accomplish their assigned mission using a combination of innovation and solid infantry fundamentals. But the Marines have essentially a reinforced division fighting in the sparsely populated Helmand Province which gives them enough boots on the ground to be effective. And I remain flabbergasted by the thousands of support troops and massive headquarters supporting the Marines. The Marines should be focused on securing the people by separating the population from the Taliban which is best done by relentlessly hunting them down and killing them. But they are now doing nation building tasks they should not have to do because our State Department and USAID are incompetent.

Yet even with the added burden of doing missions other governmental agencies are designed and funded to do there are too many of the wrong types of people deployed in country. I have always said that PRT’s are a massive waste of money and personnel because they, by design, cannot accomplish what they are assigned to do. I would add that when you walk into the C9 or C6 or C3 sections of the MEF HQ and see a half dozen full bird Colonels in each it doesn’t take a military expert to figure out something is amiss.

We are not going to build Afghanistan into a functional nation. But we can build the Afghan military into a functional tool while providing the room for them to grow with our own maneuver battalions. To do that requires lots more boots on the ground but outside the wire of the dozens of massive bases we have built in Afghanistan. You can deploy and support those troops with about 50% of the people currently stuffed into the massive FOB’s.

We need more trigger pullers but less troops. We need more reconstruction but don’t need PRT’s. We need a clear mission with more of the ROE decision making passed down the chain of command, not more general officers. And we need to figure out how to do the hold and build with the TTP’s I use which is currently a bridge too far for both the military and the other governmental agencies who are spending billions while accomplishing nothing.

Tim makes an interesting point concerning support to infantry ratio, a theme that has been discussed here, here, here, here and hereMicromanaging the military has also taken a prominent place in our inspection here at The Captain’s Journal.  As for ROE, I have always been a proponent of pressing both responsibility and authority down in the chain of command.  Micromanaging the ROE caused the deaths of three Marines and a Corpsman.

As if on cue (maybe they’re listening to Tim and/or me), the support to infantry ratio is about to change in Afghanistan.

U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan are seeking ways to maintain the level of combat troops there, even as they make plans to cut the overall number of American personnel to meet the White House’s mandate to start shipping out forces by summer.

Under one early proposal, commanders in Afghanistan would cut from 5,000 to 10,000 staff positions, maintenance personnel and intelligence analysts. But the number of Army and Marine infantry would be untouched, as would brigade and battalion headquarters.

A senior military official said Gen. David Petraeus has yet to authorize any formal planning for the July 2011 drawdown of forces that President Barack Obama announced more than a year ago. But other officials said Gen. Petraeus and administration officials in Washington appeared to back the general approach of culling support positions that may be redundant or expendable, while preserving, or even increasing, the proportion of front-line infantry troops in the field.

“You’re still engaged in a war and you don’t want to give up combat power,” said an administration official. “Why would you send home gunfighters and keep cooks? It doesn’t make sense.”

The plan to reduce troop levels, which President Obama announced when he committed 33,000 additional troops for Afghanistan in December 2009, has been a running source of tension between the White House and the military. Reducing troop levels is a political priority, especially with anxiety on the left about the length and cost of the war. Military commanders are wary that too fast a withdrawal could imperil what they see as their fragile gains.

Gen. Petraeus believes he has been given wide latitude by the White House to determine how to cut, according to a military officer familiar with his thinking, and also understands the cut must be more than 2,000 people. Officials believe reducing forces between 5,000 and 10,000 could satisfy demands within the White House for a substantial
reduction. But cutting at the upper end of that range could entail reducing the military’s firepower, they say.

Although there is no official cap, military officials in Afghanistan have been told they can’t exceed about 98,000 troops, which is close to the current deployment.

Some senior officers believe keeping the same number of combat troops in Afghanistan after the beginning of the drawdown is critical to breaking the will of the Taliban to keep fighting after the summer. “The message [we are hearing] from the Taliban is that we are leaving,” said a senior defense official. “A significant number will leave, but I guarantee there won’t be any combat forces cut.”

Separately from the July drawdown, officials say top commanders in Afghanistan are reviewing the makeup of their forces, looking for support troops that could be sent home and replaced with additional front-line “trigger pullers.”

“We’ve got a lot of guys who never leave the wire,” said one military officer, referring to a military base’s perimeter. “I think we’re asking what each one of them does and do we need what they do.”

There are worse things the Pentagon could be doing than listening to Tim – and um, me.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks


  1. On January 12, 2011 at 10:14 pm, Jim Harris said:

    The observation that the non-military government agencies are AWOL has been made for a long time, without effect.

    Maybe it’s time to try out another view, to wit: Maybe the military should get the missions assigned to the other government agencies; BUT, the military also gets the money, the people, and other resources, to manage as they see fit. The idea of an armed diplomat is not offensive to me, even though it may offend some DOS types. In fact, and of our warriors are armed diplomats if you take Clauswitz literally (war as diplomacy by other means, etc.). While it may not be the “ideal” solution, it recognizes a funadamental relaity — non-military agencies are not usually filled with people willing to spend long tours away from mommy and the kids, in uncomfortable primitive places where they may get there @ss shot/blown off. (There are notable exceptions, but I think the generality is true.) Since the DoD more consistently attracts these types than others, that may be the best place to start.

  2. On January 13, 2011 at 7:49 am, TS Alfabet said:


    I will go one better: for Afghanistan, the military IS the best suited for all of the above missions precisely because they have a warrior ethos that naturally understands and relates easily to the Afghan ethos.

    We need to candidly confront the fact that the federal government is largely dysfunctional and incompetent. The military, particularly the Marines, is the one area that has demonstrated at least some competence and ability to adapt, improve, overcome and prevail. Not perfect by any means, but you are absolutely right that if half of the money wasted on the civilian agencies was given to local commanders to use in their broad discretion, we would see amazing results.

  3. On January 15, 2011 at 7:13 am, Joe said:

    The Marine Corps MEU Combat Service Support should be used as a Model for how the Shaft to Spear tip should look like. They have a small support element, configured to support a re-enforced Infantry Battalion and Air Group on the ground. And does a excellent job of doing just that.
    Granted for longer term support, other assests generally have to be brought in. But thats when the HUGE FOBs start to take over, Once set up and running, is everybody nessessary? The more people you bring in the more people you have to bring in to support feeds itself. Take a realistic head count of Jobs and what people do and are they really needed there in the first place? I wouldn’t say it could be done with 50% sent home, but 25 to 30% possible? Get back to Expeditionary, Lean and mean.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

You are currently reading "Changing the Support to Infantry Ratio in Afghanistan", entry #5985 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,Support to Infantry Ratio and was published January 11th, 2011 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.

26th MEU (10)
Abu Muqawama (12)
ACOG (2)
ACOGs (1)
Afghan National Army (36)
Afghan National Police (17)
Afghanistan (704)
Afghanistan SOFA (4)
Agriculture in COIN (3)
AGW (1)
Air Force (40)
Air Power (10)
al Qaeda (83)
Ali al-Sistani (1)
America (22)
Ammunition (277)
Animals (285)
Ansar al Sunna (15)
Anthropology (3)
Antonin Scalia (1)
AR-15s (373)
Arghandab River Valley (1)
Arlington Cemetery (2)
Army (86)
Assassinations (2)
Assault Weapon Ban (28)
Australian Army (7)
Azerbaijan (4)
Backpacking (3)
Badr Organization (8)
Baitullah Mehsud (21)
Basra (17)
BATFE (219)
Battle of Bari Alai (2)
Battle of Wanat (18)
Battle Space Weight (3)
Bin Laden (7)
Blogroll (3)
Blogs (24)
Body Armor (23)
Books (3)
Border War (18)
Brady Campaign (1)
Britain (38)
British Army (35)
Camping (5)
Canada (17)
Castle Doctrine (1)
Caucasus (6)
Center For a New American Security (8)
Charity (3)
China (16)
Christmas (16)
CIA (30)
Civilian National Security Force (3)
Col. Gian Gentile (9)
Combat Outposts (3)
Combat Video (2)
Concerned Citizens (6)
Constabulary Actions (3)
Coolness Factor (3)
COP Keating (4)
Corruption in COIN (4)
Council on Foreign Relations (1)
Counterinsurgency (218)
DADT (2)
David Rohde (1)
Defense Contractors (2)
Department of Defense (210)
Department of Homeland Security (26)
Disaster Preparedness (5)
Distributed Operations (5)
Dogs (15)
Donald Trump (27)
Drone Campaign (4)
EFV (3)
Egypt (12)
El Salvador (1)
Embassy Security (1)
Enemy Spotters (1)
Expeditionary Warfare (17)
F-22 (2)
F-35 (1)
Fallujah (17)
Far East (3)
Fathers and Sons (2)
Favorite (1)
Fazlullah (3)
FBI (39)
Featured (189)
Federal Firearms Laws (18)
Financing the Taliban (2)
Firearms (1,767)
Football (1)
Force Projection (35)
Force Protection (4)
Force Transformation (1)
Foreign Policy (27)
Fukushima Reactor Accident (6)
Ganjgal (1)
Garmsir (1)
general (15)
General Amos (1)
General James Mattis (1)
General McChrystal (44)
General McKiernan (6)
General Rodriguez (3)
General Suleimani (9)
Georgia (19)
Google (1)
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (1)
Gun Control (1,638)
Guns (2,307)
Guns In National Parks (3)
Haditha Roundup (10)
Haiti (2)
Haqqani Network (9)
Hate Mail (8)
Hekmatyar (1)
Heroism (4)
Hezbollah (12)
High Capacity Magazines (16)
High Value Targets (9)
Homecoming (1)
Homeland Security (3)
Horses (2)
Humor (72)
Hunting (33)
ICOS (1)
IEDs (7)
Immigration (108)
India (10)
Infantry (4)
Information Warfare (4)
Infrastructure (4)
Intelligence (23)
Intelligence Bulletin (6)
Iran (171)
Iraq (379)
Iraq SOFA (23)
Islamic Facism (64)
Islamists (98)
Israel (19)
Jaish al Mahdi (21)
Jalalabad (1)
Japan (3)
Jihadists (81)
John Nagl (5)
Joint Intelligence Centers (1)
JRTN (1)
Kabul (1)
Kajaki Dam (1)
Kamdesh (9)
Kandahar (12)
Karachi (7)
Kashmir (2)
Khost Province (1)
Khyber (11)
Knife Blogging (7)
Korea (4)
Korengal Valley (3)
Kunar Province (20)
Kurdistan (3)
Language in COIN (5)
Language in Statecraft (1)
Language Interpreters (2)
Lashkar-e-Taiba (2)
Law Enforcement (6)
Lawfare (14)
Leadership (6)
Lebanon (6)
Leon Panetta (2)
Let Them Fight (2)
Libya (14)
Lines of Effort (3)
Littoral Combat (8)
Logistics (50)
Long Guns (1)
Lt. Col. Allen West (2)
Marine Corps (280)
Marines in Bakwa (1)
Marines in Helmand (67)
Marjah (4)
Media (68)
Medical (146)
Memorial Day (6)
Mexican Cartels (41)
Mexico (61)
Michael Yon (6)
Micromanaging the Military (7)
Middle East (1)
Military Blogging (26)
Military Contractors (5)
Military Equipment (25)
Militia (9)
Mitt Romney (3)
Monetary Policy (1)
Moqtada al Sadr (2)
Mosul (4)
Mountains (25)
MRAPs (1)
Mullah Baradar (1)
Mullah Fazlullah (1)
Mullah Omar (3)
Musa Qala (4)
Music (25)
Muslim Brotherhood (6)
Nation Building (2)
National Internet IDs (1)
National Rifle Association (95)
NATO (15)
Navy (30)
Navy Corpsman (1)
NCOs (3)
News (1)
NGOs (3)
Nicholas Schmidle (2)
Now Zad (19)
NSA (3)
NSA James L. Jones (6)
Nuclear (62)
Nuristan (8)
Obama Administration (221)
Offshore Balancing (1)
Operation Alljah (7)
Operation Khanjar (14)
Ossetia (7)
Pakistan (165)
Paktya Province (1)
Palestine (5)
Patriotism (7)
Patrolling (1)
Pech River Valley (11)
Personal (72)
Petraeus (14)
Pictures (1)
Piracy (13)
Pistol (4)
Pizzagate (21)
Police (648)
Police in COIN (3)
Policy (15)
Politics (970)
Poppy (2)
PPEs (1)
Prisons in Counterinsurgency (12)
Project Gunrunner (20)
PRTs (1)
Qatar (1)
Quadrennial Defense Review (2)
Quds Force (13)
Quetta Shura (1)
RAND (3)
Recommended Reading (14)
Refueling Tanker (1)
Religion (492)
Religion and Insurgency (19)
Reuters (1)
Rick Perry (4)
Rifles (1)
Roads (4)
Rolling Stone (1)
Ron Paul (1)
ROTC (1)
Rules of Engagement (75)
Rumsfeld (1)
Russia (37)
Sabbatical (1)
Sangin (1)
Saqlawiyah (1)
Satellite Patrols (2)
Saudi Arabia (4)
Scenes from Iraq (1)
Second Amendment (668)
Second Amendment Quick Hits (2)
Secretary Gates (9)
Sharia Law (3)
Shura Ittehad-ul-Mujahiden (1)
SIIC (2)
Sirajuddin Haqqani (1)
Small Wars (72)
Snipers (9)
Sniveling Lackeys (2)
Soft Power (4)
Somalia (8)
Sons of Afghanistan (1)
Sons of Iraq (2)
Special Forces (28)
Squad Rushes (1)
State Department (23)
Statistics (1)
Sunni Insurgency (10)
Support to Infantry Ratio (1)
Supreme Court (52)
Survival (185)
SWAT Raids (57)
Syria (38)
Tactical Drills (38)
Tactical Gear (14)
Taliban (168)
Taliban Massing of Forces (4)
Tarmiyah (1)
TBI (1)
Technology (21)
Tehrik-i-Taliban (78)
Terrain in Combat (1)
Terrorism (96)
Thanksgiving (13)
The Anbar Narrative (23)
The Art of War (5)
The Fallen (1)
The Long War (20)
The Surge (3)
The Wounded (13)
Thomas Barnett (1)
Transnational Insurgencies (5)
Tribes (5)
TSA (24)
TSA Ineptitude (13)
TTPs (4)
U.S. Border Patrol (6)
U.S. Border Security (19)
U.S. Sovereignty (24)
UAVs (2)
UBL (4)
Ukraine (10)
Uncategorized (98)
Universal Background Check (3)
Unrestricted Warfare (4)
USS Iwo Jima (2)
USS San Antonio (1)
Uzbekistan (1)
V-22 Osprey (4)
Veterans (3)
Vietnam (1)
War & Warfare (412)
War & Warfare (41)
War Movies (4)
War Reporting (21)
Wardak Province (1)
Warriors (6)
Waziristan (1)
Weapons and Tactics (79)
West Point (1)
Winter Operations (1)
Women in Combat (21)
WTF? (1)
Yemen (1)

April 2024
March 2024
February 2024
January 2024
December 2023
November 2023
October 2023
September 2023
August 2023
July 2023
June 2023
May 2023
April 2023
March 2023
February 2023
January 2023
December 2022
November 2022
October 2022
September 2022
August 2022
July 2022
June 2022
May 2022
April 2022
March 2022
February 2022
January 2022
December 2021
November 2021
October 2021
September 2021
August 2021
July 2021
June 2021
May 2021
April 2021
March 2021
February 2021
January 2021
December 2020
November 2020
October 2020
September 2020
August 2020
July 2020
June 2020
May 2020
April 2020
March 2020
February 2020
January 2020
December 2019
November 2019
October 2019
September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006

about · archives · contact · register

Copyright © 2006-2024 Captain's Journal. All rights reserved.