A great article today in the NY Times lays out the initial framework for what appears to be a middle-ground plan in Afghanistan. It appears that Obama is seeking some sort of compromise between a full-on surge/escalation and a withdrawal to a CT-only strategy.
The plan will focus on securing 10 key population centers, with additional BCTs being distributed in line with these priorities: 2x RC-South (1 to Kandahar and 1 unknown – probably to Helmand); 1x RC-East; 1x flex-reserve to “surge” (similar to what 3/2 Stryker did in Iraq). This strategy echoes the Iraq surge in its decision to accept risk in many part of the country and focus troops in key urban-population centers (Baghdad in the case of Iraq in ’07). The major differences of course are: 1) The soldier:population ratio in Afghanistan will be much lower than in Iraq due to the larger size of Afghanistan; 2) Many argue that the other conditions that enabled the success of the surge in Iraq (i.e. Sunni Awakening movement and Sadr’s JAM stand-down) are not present in Afghanistan.
Along these lines, Tom Friedman (who always offers a great big-picture, long-term perspective) puts the decision to send additional troops into the context of the US national interest in his NY Times op-ed today. Is McChrystal just asking us to reinforce failure in Afghanistan?
It appears that Matthew Hoh (who recently resigned as the State Department’s top civilian in Zabul province) thinks so. In his must-read letter of resignation, he argues that, “Success and victory [in Afghanistan]…will be realized not in years, after billions more spent, but in decades and generations. The United States does not enjoy a national treasury for such success and victory.”
Obama is expected to formally announce his strategy between the Nov 7 presidential election run-off and a planned trip to Japan on Nov 11. Time is running out to make a decision. Where do you weigh in?