A sense of unreality overshadows our debate on Afghan war policy across the spectrum of opinions. The unreality derives from the simple fact that we do not have enough troops to rationally implement an adequate defense of our national interests. So every argument for Afghanistan policy tends to seem unserious, perhaps pointless.
For example, Gen. Stanley McChrystal's proposal calls for a counterinsurgency, or COIN, war modeled on the U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual, developed by Gen. David Petraeus with strong input from Gen. McChrystal. Pursuant to that standard, to fully man a COIN strategy, we would need 20 to 25 troops per 1,000 residents in Afghanistan. That would require 600,000 U.S., NATO and Afghan troops and police.
According to CNN, at the height of the Iraq surge, there were 29 troops for every 1,000 residents. Currently, there are about 260,000 U.S., NATO and Afghan troops on the ground, about 11 troops per 1,000 residents. With the additional 30,000 U.S. troops plus 5,000 more NATO troops, the force density rate will go up to 12.5 troops for every 1,000 residents -- barely half of what is needed to reasonably hope for success. Moreover, the history of COINs -- from the Philippines to Algeria to Malaya to Vietnam -- is that they will take many years to succeed, if then.
Notwithstanding that guidance, Gen. McChrystal asked for only 40,000 more troops because, obviously, we do not have another 340,000 troops available. And given that the word from some of our troops in Afghanistan is that the Afghan National Army more or less refuses to fight, we are not going to find another 300,000 adequate fighting soldiers from the locals in the next year or two.
Notwithstanding the insufficient number of troops requested by the general, President Barack Obama basically has endorsed the McChrystal recommendations -- with a time-sensitive exit strategy added on. In the president's words: "I do not make this decision lightly. I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicenter of violent extremism practiced by al-Qaida. ... This is no idle danger, no hypothetical threat. In the last few months alone, we have apprehended extremists within our borders who were sent here from the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan to commit new acts of terror. And this danger will only grow if the region slides backwards and al-Qaida can operate with impunity."
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.
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