One of the maxims of military planning is “the enemy has a vote.” And that’s why one has to question the prudence of a residual force of only 9,800 in Afghanistan as announced by President Obama and the White House.
According to a report in the Daily Beast — hardly a conservative outlet – even they are asking the same. The Beast reports that President Obama is poised to keep nearly 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan until at least 2016. Some top intelligence and military officers now fighting that war say the number of troops under consideration by the White House should be just enough to prevent al-Qaida from re-establishing a safe haven. Others aren’t so sure that 9,800 troops can keep the terror group and its allies at bay.
In the military we used a simple calculation called “troop to task.” The first thing that must be decided is the task and purpose for troops, and then the battlefield calculations begin.
And understand that for military offensive operations — which is what I hope the Obama administration is seeking — the good guy to bad guy ratio is preferred to be 3:1. As well, the ratio between combat to logistical support troops is around 1:4 — in other words, for every “trigger puller” you are looking at a minimum of four logistical support troops to enable them.
So let’s “do the math” and round up the number of 9,800 to 10,000 and based upon battlefield calculus, we are looking at only about 2500 “trigger pullers” — yeah, I know, we can leverage technological superiority. Well, that didn’t work so well in Vietnam against a determined enemy — and it ain’t worked so well in Afghanistan.
How many of this 9,800 will be stuck in headquarters areas like Kabul, Bagram, and even Kandahar? My point is this: if we’re not willing to kick the enemy in the arse and just making them targets, then we should get out! And don’t get me going about the insidious rules of engagement. Anyway, why announce your force strength levels to the enemy? I bet they can do the calculus as well.
As the Beast reports, “The stakes in the troop decision couldn’t be higher… in a very real way, the decision could determine the final outcome of America’s longest war. There are top military and intelligence officials who are deeply concerned about what the president might do next.” We’ve already witnessed the ramifications of Obama’s decision in Iraq.
“The bottom line is that 10,000 troops is not enough to deny al-Qaida sanctuary in Afghanistan,” one U.S. intelligence officer told The Daily Beast. “As a result, they will come back. We have decided as a political leadership that we can live with this.”
Really? Tell that to the few who will be left conducting some rear guard action in Afghanistan, certain to be forgotten by this administration who will no doubt ask liberal media accomplices not to report its failures.
Some Senior military commanders in Afghanistan and two senior U.S. defense officials in Washington said they were comfortable with the 10,000 figure but were concerned that if the numbers went much lower than that, the U.S. would have to shrink its mission to perhaps just Kabul and Bagram, leaving the countryside to Afghan security forces that still struggle to get ammunition, equipment, fuel, and food, to their troops. And anyone who served in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan knows that control of the countryside is far more important than hunkering down at large regional bases.
And of course these commanders spoke on condition of anonymity because they were worried the White House would perceive any publicly expressed doubts or recommendations as an attempt by the military to box Obama into a specific number of troops, as it was when Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s recommendations for Afghanistan were leaked ahead of Obama’s decision on troop numbers in his first year in office. Seems the military fully understands a confrontational relationship exists with the Obama White House.
President Obama will return to West Point to deliver an address on foreign policy and national security — more talk, talk, talk. And it was at West Point where Obama announced his “surge” strategy, whereby he also articulated its duration — brilliant strategic move, huh?
A community organizer is not exactly the one you want playing the part of a leader in national security matters — but unfortunately folks, that’s what we’ve got.