At least 50,000 (fifty thousand) US troops would be required under the new Afghanistan war strategy approved last month by President Donald Trump’s top military and national security advisors to stop the advance of the Taliban and save the government in Kabul, according to an opinion piece published by Bloomberg, an American financial news service, on Wednesday.
Citing a classified U.S. intelligence community assessment, Bloomberg correspondent Eli Lake said the strategy, drafted in April, provided estimates of necessary troop strengths for various strategic options. “But it found that if an ambitious war plan approved by the National Security Council’s principals committee got a green light from the president — a big if — more than 50,000 U.S. troops would be needed,” the article said.
That proposed strategy, according to the article, would place the U.S. on a new war footing and in a deeper partnership with the Afghan government in its current campaign against the Taliban, removing arbitrary timelines for troop withdrawals set by former President Barack Obama, The new estimate from the intelligence community envisions significantly more U.S. forces in Afghanistan than the current levels of around 8,400 U.S. troops currently fighting there. It is also more than the modest troop increase for Afghanistan of around 5,000 that was reported last week.
One reason the new war strategy would require more troops is that it envisions using U.S. forces in a support role that until now has relied on outside contractors, the article said. Using contractors for functions like vehicle maintenance and other logistical aid have meant that U.S. forces deployed to Syria and Iraq have largely focused on war fighting and training locals. “This has kept the total number of U.S. troops artificially low, while increasing the overall cost of the U.S. presence.” Spokesmen for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the National Security Council declined to comment on the Bloomberg report. But other U.S. officials familiar with the internal deliberations, the article said that Trump has signaled he is in no mood to escalate America’s longest war. “Indeed, he has complained to close aides in the last month about how great powers throughout history — from Alexander’s Macedonians to the British Empire — have failed to pacify the country,” according to it.
Correspondent Lake wrote, “Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster takes a very different view. For the last five weeks he has lobbied the national security cabinet and the president with a slide presentation on Afghanistan that features photos from Kabul in the 1970s when it resembled a modern capital. That was before the Soviet coup of 1979, before the rise of the Mujahideen in the 1980s that drove the Soviets out, and before the rise of the Taliban in the 1990s and early 2000s that provided a safe haven to al Qaeda before the Sept. 11 attacks.
“According to U.S. officials familiar with McMaster’s presentation, the message was simple: Afghanistan is not necessarily destined to be a safe haven for terrorists or a wasteland run by warlords. What’s more, McMaster has argued strongly that the counter-terrorism mission against the Taliban and other Islamic insurgents is contingent on the government of President Ashraf Ghani surviving.
“On this last point, there are no guarantees. While the Taliban has not been able to control territory in major population centers, it has expanded its reach and influence since the end of U.S. combat operations in the country in 2015. One national security official described the current strategy inherited from Obama as ‘losing slowly.’ This official said the Taliban will overrun the government eventually if more outside resources are not deployed.”
Last week, Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said the current war between Ghani’s government and the Taliban was a “stalemate.” He added: “That stalemate will deteriorate in the favor of the belligerents. So we have to do something very different than what we’ve been doing in the past.”—APP