James Forsyth

The case for 40,000

The case for 40,000
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As President Obama continues to consider his options on Afghanistan, The New York Times has a good primer on what the military could do with the various levels of reinforcements being considered. This is what the military believes it could do with an extra 40,000 troops:

"Should President Obama decide to send 40,000 additional American troops to Afghanistan, the most ambitious plan under consideration at the White House, the military would have enormous flexibility to deploy as many as 15,000 troops to the Taliban center of gravity in the south, 5,000 to the critical eastern border with Pakistan and 10,000 as trainers for the Afghan security forces.

The rest could be deployed flexibly across the country, including to the NATO headquarters in Kabul, the capital, and in clandestine operations.

If Mr. Obama limited any additional American troops to 10,000 to 15,000, the military would deploy them largely as trainers, with some reinforcements likely in the southern province of Kandahar, the Taliban's spiritual home. The neighboring, and opium-rich, Helmand Province and the eastern border with Pakistan, military analysts say, would receive few if any American troops and would remain largely as they are today." The coalition needs to drastically change the dynamics in Afghanistan. As the counterinsurgency guru David Kilcullen argued in a speech last week, the Taliban has proved effective at responding to a gradual build up of Coalition forces and would likely be able to cope with up to an extra 30,000 troops. So, taking the medium option would court disaster. It is hard to see how public support can be maintained for the war if this surge fails to produce results.