Obama's Afghanistan plan moves much too cautiously
- Published: Wednesday, 01 April 2009 15:55
1 April 2009
President Obama announced a goal to stand up 216,000 Afghan security forces by 2011. This falls far short of assessments by our own military that a security force of 400,000 is needed to secure Afghanistan.
Today there are 80,000 Afghan police and 82,000 soldiers in various stages of readiness. Obama's aim to train 54,000 new soldiers and police in 33 months, which equals about 1,600 new recruits a month, is less than bold. At this rate, approximately a dozen years and hundreds of billions of dollars will be needed to reach 400,000. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking.We still enjoy widespread approval from the Afghans - I recently drove about a thousand miles through Afghanistan without soldiers - but year by year, mistake by inevitable mistake, our support is eroding. On a recent trip back from Afghanistan that took us through Bahrain and Iraq, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told me privately that his biggest concern is that we could lose support from the Afghan people.
In fact, just days before in Afghanistan, I saw Gates discuss the same topic with Gen. David McKiernan. McKiernan, a highly respected officer, confirmed to Gates that support of the Afghan people remains good. But again, the clock is ticking, and everyone who is paying attention can imagine the implications of moving too slowly.