Finishing Unfinished Business: US Troop Escalation

Seems I barely added a post for a troop surge in Afghanistan and…voila! articles are flying off the proverbial presses of solid decisions to “send more now”. Check out all of the major news services, they’re all stumbling over themselves to put out the latest and greatest. America’s so called “forgotten war” is apparently (and finally!) forgotten no more. I am ecstatic and fully supportive that national policy is finally addressing this war, but I must draw parallels with both Soviet and other nations invasions of the past. While the Russians, British, and others purposefully invaded Afghanistan and committed forces supposedly sufficient to take care of the problem, they were all distracted with higher priority national concerns which drained resources away. It wasn’t until each previous foreign invader finally admitted the untenable position of their then current resource level allocation and eventually shifted from the other higher priority issue(s) that each began to “surge” into this dusty land with apparent “necessary forces for the job”. Check out the Soviet escalation of the 1980s and the British invasions of the 1800s. Perhaps US involvement will “break the mold” and not follow step with previous similar military incursions. Yes, many could point out the differences in reasons for each invasion force, I guess attempting to make a moral or ethical argument. I am not here to advocate for or against the superior or inferior purposes behind previous invasions, merely pointing out that each one has tended to follow a similar deployment pattern. This pattern seems to allow the enemy forces to establish themselves for a long term resistance. This long term resistance nearly always favors the opposition forces allowing them to establish institutional support systems. For the most part, while attempting to practice good nationhood, the invader nation cannot halt, impede, or destroy these institutional support channels because it would result in a widening of the war or damaging conduct towards a friendly or allied nation. Well, lets see how this plays out for the next few weeks. Will NATO and UN forces increase also? Can Pakistan be brought to greater accountability; will they eventually let us venture into their Federally Administrated Tribal Areas? Questions, questions, questions…where are the answers?


A “surge” for Afghanistan? Is it too late?

The initial U.S. involvement in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2003 almost entirely consisted of Special Operations Forces and ancillary, companion elements…it was considered a “Special Operations War”. Quietly, efficiently, effectively these “silent professionals” carried out the campaign to deconstruct the Taliban and their allies, and surgically dismantle Al Qaeda and its sub-elements and partner stateless organizations. While these same “silent warriors” had practically 100% availability and priority use of air, land, and sea support assets, they carried out their mission plans with near battlefield supremacy. These support conditions are what allowed for the quick toppling of the radical Taliban regime. Our forces were complimented on their rapid and efficient success.

The United Nations was basically “on board” with this particular U.S. war of intervention, authorizing a UN mandate from the world body proclaiming its justness and legitimate status. NATO and EU partners were quickly brought aboard and at least in the beginning, willfully contributed troops and resources for the conduct of the war. I can personally vouch for the unwavering bravery, lethality, and steadfastness of several NATO allies of the U.S. and was proud to serve alongside these fellow comrades-in-arms. Other allied nations have been, and still are, reticent and reluctant to show any guts in the face of the enemy, instead choosing the least “dangerous” mission sets (if possible) in a front-less, asymmetric war.

Once our mission transitioned from nearly all Special Operations forces to majority conventional regular Army components (2003 to 2004) it seemed we then relied on our partner nations and allies to fulfill our wildest hopes for deploying large land forces and allowing a “dream scenario” if you will of massed U.S., Allied, and Afghan national military units. This scenario apparently never materialized (to date Canada has been the second largest contributor of forces), quickly began waning from 2005 forward and now, with the increase of casualties, especially among allied nations, will likely continue to erode. There is much discussion about the “failed” Bush administration’s strategy in Iraq, and how Secretary Rumsfield “blew it” there, but not many discussions center on these same circumstances for Afghanistan. The same folks that brought you “failures” in Iraq were (and are) in charge of Afghanistan also! Is it possible the Bush administration, while looking for ways and means to maximize troops totals for an upcoming Iraq engagement, crossed its fingers, so to speak, on the expectations for Afghanistan support from our allies?

Nonetheless, it seems obvious we are now seeking to possibly “correct” our commitment and troop totals in Afghanistan. The listening to our “commanders in the field” we so often hear about for Iraq and how that drives mission and policy is now apparently the new norm for Afghanistan. Recent top level generals placed in charge of the theater of operations are expressing more vocally their need to have more boots on the ground and priority of air assets, both combat aircraft and intelligence platforms, and administration responses seem to indicate a major shift to meeting those requests.

I know that hindsight is always 20/20, but I often wonder about things such as: had we began the “surge” in Iraq much sooner, would we then have been able to initiate a “surge” like action for Afghanistan a fews years back? My personal viewpoint is that Afghanistan should have always been a “surge” build-up priority from 2002-2003 forward once the conventional forces took primary control for the conduct of the war and majority troop totals. I feel we didn’t fully commit to overwhelmingly “finish off” this conflict before supporting another. This is not to say our Armed Forces haven’t accomplished great and incredible deeds of mission accomplishment while conducting the war so far, simply that if given greater forces and support assets they could do so very, very much more.

What say you the blogoshere? Drop a comment or two. Enjoy!