April 08, 2008

More Troops Needed in Afghanistan?

The Commander of Regional Command South says otherwise:

"A lot of people talk, 'We need more troops, more troops.' I think it is more about better synchronization between security, development and governance in terms of a comprehensive plan for Afghanistan."

Yeah, but we also need more troops. (see my post from two days ago about where ISAF might go to synchronize)

And speaking of more troops, Kip is trying to still figure out the fuzzy math on this one.

The President promised an extra 1000 troops in Afghanistan. Admiral Mullen says we are going down to 12 month tours ASAP.

The next President will have, at minimum, 140,000 troops in Iraq. Where is this 1000 coming from? And is that 1000 on top of the 3200 Marines we are sending to Afghanistan "temporarily," or not? If not, are we actually talking about a net loss of 2200 US troops at the end of the year?

Beyond that, Kip is still not clear whether the temporary addition of 3200 Marines and several hundred French troops meets the demands by CSTC-A for more advisors (40 additional teams minimum with, one would assume although CSTC-A doesn't always think of these things, concomitant logistical and intelligence support) to make up for a shortfall dating to the Summer of 2007.

Now in response to recent questions about troop levels GEN McNeill and others have equivocated by pointing out the greater importance of the Afghan National Police and Afghan National Army. For instance, COL Klingaman, "Commander" (in quotes because, like all other ARSIC commanders, he doesn't really command anything) of ARSIC West said in a February interview:

Well, the key is, and I think you heard this from General McNeill the other day, the key in counterinsurgency operations is the use of indigenous forces as the force of choice. And in the situation here in Afghanistan, given the great expanse geographically and the relatively low density of coalition forces, we're very reliant ultimately on the development of competent Afghan national security forces. I think General McNeill also talked about Afghan police forces, or police forces generically, as the force of choice in counterinsurgency, because they are local and they know the terrain and the people better than forces from the outside.
So what we're doing here, in CSTC-A and Task Force Phoenix and in ARSIC-West, in developing the Afghan army and the Afghan police, is absolutely critical as we move ahead with a counterinsurgency strategy across Afghanistan.

(Kip laughed at the earlier dodge by Klingaman on whether the Italians and Spanish "get" counterinsurgency--they don't)

As Joe Lieberman pointed out last month, it is going to take a lot more than the current Afghan National Security Forces to win, even if they become effective counterinsurgents:

The biggest problem with the Afghan army is that it is too small, with a targeted end strength of only 80,000 troops. By contrast, the projected end strength of the Iraqi army is over 200,000 -- even though Afghanistan is nearly 50 percent bigger in territory than Iraq and has a larger population....

I hope that President Bush will pledge to support an expansion in the end strength of the Afghan army, ideally as high as 200,000 soldiers -- a bold, new American commitment to Afghanistan to reverse its slide toward insecurity and to reinforce our allies there....

Securing Afghanistan with indigenous forces is ultimately less expensive than doing so with foreign troops. For the cost of a single coalition soldier in Afghanistan, we can support 60 to 70 Afghans in uniform.

Now, Lieberman is right in spirit. But the ANA is a conventionally designed force trained by conventional units. Mission Essential Task Lists for units were essentially pulled directly from those listed for equivalent conventional US Army units. The key, as Colonel Klingaman points out, will be the more local Afghan National Police. To date, the international effort to train the police is well behind the effort to train the Afghan Army. Reasons for this run from an abdication of responsibility on the part of the Germans to a knee jerk decision to directly change militia forces into police (the ill-fated Afghan National Auxiliary Police) to a decision by CSTC-A to allow police mentors teams to rove over large numbers of districts rather than focusing on the key districts.

Nor has Focused District Development, which focuses on some basic tactical training for the police and (when the planning is done correctly) rank and pay reform but no actual development of the district, resulted in a strategic prioritizing of effort in key districts. The program seems just another band aid on a bleeding artery in the absence of a coherent national strategy that includes governance, economic development, and information operations in addition to security.

If we wish to take the counterinsurgency in Afghanistan seriously, then 82,000 police in a mostly rural country of 30 million is not going to cover it. Consider that New York City alone has almost 40,000 police officers, and you'll begin to understand just how preposterous this number is. Also take into account that the 82,000 includes the Afghan National Civil Order Police (ANCOP), who are not community police, and the number seems even more out of hand.

The main obstacle to a larger police force is money, and Afghanistan, one of the world's poorest countries, will not be able to afford a large police force any time soon. However, American security would benefit much more from a police force trebled in size than a similar increase in either international security forces or the Afghan Army.

Perhaps NATO's second tier could develop an "Equal Burden Fund" to bankroll the effort.