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If wishful thinking makes good military policy, then we’ll be in great shape in Afghanistan.
General Stanley McChrystal – the top U.S. commander there – has been running a political and PR campaign for weeks to force President Obama into a major escalation of the war there. In September, the general called for sending up to 85,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan in order to secure the country and rapidly train the Afghan army and police force to take over the fighting.
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Let’s just deal here with that last component of McChrystal’s “plan.” He says we must recruit, train, and deploy 44,000 additional Afghan soldiers in the next year, and also add another 68,000 trained Afghan officers to the police force. This dramatic increase is vital to his strategy, McChrystal says.
Good luck with that. A series of status reviews of the Afghan Army and police, written by U.S. military officers involved in training them, reveal that the general is operating in fantasyland. The reports mock McChrystal’s assurances of a quick fix, pointing to mass illiteracy, endemic corruption, profound culture differences, very little will to fight, and “a lack of competent and professional leadership at all levels.”
One report notes that while 92,000 Afghans are in the police force, only 24,000 have completed formal training. Even trained, only 10 percent of police units can function independently of U.S. support and direction. Also, one out of every four policemen quit each year, thus requiring massive recruiting and training just to maintain the current force level.
The best military assessments say it will take 10 years – not one – to raise Afghan security forces to a level of basic competence. Why should our troops spend a decade and lose lives to do that? And why is Gen. McChrystal not being honest?
“U.S. Reviews of Afghan Forces Raise Doubt on Training Goal,” The New York Times, November 6, 2009.