Monday, December 17, 2007

US reviews Afstan policy

Looks like the country is starting to get the high-level (and US media) attention it needs:
With violence on the decline in Iraq but on the upswing in Afghanistan, President Bush is facing new pressure from the U.S. military to accelerate a troop drawdown in Iraq and bulk up force levels in Afghanistan, according to senior U.S. officials.

Administration officials said the White House could start to debate the future of the American military commitment in both Iraq and Afghanistan as early as next month. Some Pentagon officials are urging a further drawdown of forces in Iraq beyond that envisioned by the White House, which is set to reduce the number of combat brigades from 20 to 15 by the end of next summer. At the same time, commanders in Afghanistan are looking for several additional battalions, helicopters and other resources to confront a resurgent Taliban movement.

Bush's decisions on Iraq and Afghanistan could heavily influence his ability to pass on to his successor stable situations in both countries, an objective his advisers describe as one of the president's paramount goals for his final year in office. They say Bush will listen closely to his military commanders on the ground before making any decisions on troops but is unlikely to do anything he believes could jeopardize recent, hard-won security improvements in Iraq.

Administration officials say the White House has become more concerned in recent months about the situation in Afghanistan, where grinding poverty, rampant corruption, poor infrastructure and the growing challenge from the Taliban are hindering U.S. stabilization efforts. Senior administration officials now believe Afghanistan may pose a greater longer-term challenge than Iraq [!?!]...

Administration officials said the White House is considering a range of steps to stem the erosion, including the appointment of a leading international political figure to try to better coordinate efforts in Afghanistan. European newspapers have focused on Paddy Ashdown, a British politician and envoy, but a former senior military officer said his appointment would be considered controversial and seems unlikely.

Bush also plans to step up his personal diplomacy with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and will soon start regular videoconferences with him aimed at more closely monitoring and influencing the situation there, officials said. Bush has long held such videoconferences with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki...

U.S. Army Gen. Dan K. McNeill, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, is asking for an additional three battalions of troops from NATO countries -- the equivalent of another brigade combat team -- but colleagues believe that would not be enough. U.S. officials are doubtful that allies will provide all the requested troops, and predict Bush will be faced with a request for even more U.S. troops, possibly after attending a NATO summit in April in Bucharest, Romania.

The United States has about 26,000 troops in Afghanistan. NATO provides most of the additional 28,000 foreign troops in the country. Among NATO-led forces, Britain, the Netherlands, Canada and Australia have assumed the heaviest part of the combat burden alongside U.S. troops...

U.S. officials said Bush may also consider revamping the current military structure in Afghanistan, which has McNeill serving alongside a four-star NATO commander. Restrictions by NATO members on how their troops can be used -- Germany, for instance, limits where its forces can be deployed -- have made it difficult to mount a coherent response to the Taliban resurgence. U.S. forces, which have been largely confined to a small part of the country in the east, have little presence in the south, where much of the insurgency has taken hold...
Meanwhile William Arkin has another provocative piece on the role of air power in Afstan, with lots of statistics and this interesting paragraph:
As A-10 and F-15E air strikes have increased, U.S. forces have undertaken a variety of innovative efforts to reduce collateral damage and civilian casualties. Three less destructive weapons are now regularly being employed by U.S. forces: a new 250-lb. "small diameter bomb," the smallest bomb in the U.S. arsenal in the last three decades; a cleverly designed 500-lb. precision bomb; and a concrete-filled bomb -- called a 500-lb. "rock" -- that does not explode but can destroy structures. Pilots have also learned a variety of techniques for attacks around villages and urban areas, including ways to "fuse" the bombs to detonate inside structures to reduce the radius of blast.
Though I don't think I can agree with his conclusion; someone (the Afghans themselves) has to provide local security once territory is cleared:
In short, the war in Afghanistan has largely returned to its 2001 origins, when a combination of special operations forces on the ground calling in air power quickly defeated the Taliban armies. This doesn't mean ground forces are less important; the most effective combination is to have "eyes on the ground" making U.S. air power more effective. Yet despite the strategic review and the call for more troops, nothing dramatic is likely to happen "on the ground" in Afghanistan before the Bush administration leaves office. That is because the drama is not on the ground. To understand the war in Afghanistan, look up in skies.


Blogger Minicapt said...

Provocative? Ignorant would be more accurate. Trenchard ignored the necessity of the Army when he established the principles, and his acolytes have continued the farce as evidenced by Mr Arkins' opinion piece.


9:07 p.m., December 18, 2007  

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