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August 10, 2009

Afghanistan Mission Creep Watch - The Cordesman/Biddle/West Version
Posted by Michael Cohen

H/T to Steve Hynd for catching this tidbit from across the pond:

The United States should send up to 45,000 extra troops to Afghanistan, a senior adviser to the American commander in Kabul has told The Times.

Anthony Cordesman, an influential American academic who is a member of a team that has been advising General Stanley McChrystal, now in charge of Nato forces in Afghanistan, also said that to deal with the threat from the Taleban the size of the Afghan National Army might have to increase to 240,000.

This seems at pace with what we're hearing from Stephen Biddle, who was also a member of McChrystal's review team:

"We will need a large combat presence for many years to come, and we will probably need a large financial commitment longer than that," said Stephen Biddle, a senior fellow for defense policy at the Council on Foreign Relations and a member of the "strategic assessment" team advising McChrystal. The expansion of the Afghan security force that the general will recommend to secure the country "will inevitably cost much more than any imaginable Afghan government is going to be able to afford on its own," Biddle added.

And folks wonder why I call this feature the Afghanistan Mission Creep Watch. If McChrystal is listening to Biddle and Cordesman - and if the President is listening to McChrystal -- we are going to be in Afghanistan for not years, but potentially decades. This point, by the way, was reinforced by General Sir David Richards, who is about to become head of the British Army. He said recently that "Britain’s commitment to Afghanistan could last between 30 and 40 years, although he envisaged that troops would have to stay only for the medium term." I'm assuming medium term is 15-20 years. The fixation that otherwise intelligent military and foreign policy analysts have with Afghanistan is growing larger than my meager ability to comprehend. One would think from reading these quotes that the US and UK has never protected its interests in any manner other than that of military occupation.

And the cherry on top of all this comes from the always enjoyable Bing West:

"Afghan forces will need $4 billion a year for another decade, with a like sum for development," said Bing West, a former assistant secretary of defense and combat Marine who has chronicled the Iraq and Afghan wars. Bing said the danger is that Congress is "so generous in support of our own forces today, it may not support the aid needed for progress in Afghanistan tomorrow."

Yes, this is definitely a serious danger facing the United States - that we won't be generous enough to support progress in Afghanistan.


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