LAT: Obama To Send More Troops Into Afghan Combat. Again.
U.S. officials are planning to add as many as 14,000 combat troops to the American force in Afghanistan by sending home support units and replacing them with "trigger-pullers," Defense officials say.
The move would beef up the combat force in the country without increasing the overall number of U.S. troops, a contentious issue as public support for the war slips. But many of the noncombat jobs are likely be filled by private contractors, who have proved to be a source of controversy in Iraq and a growing issue in Afghanistan.
In other words, a twofer- 14,000 more U.S. troops in combat, and thousands of more non-combat
mercenaries private contractors. Which comes just a day after the New York Times reported this:
Civilian contractors working for the Pentagon in Afghanistan not only outnumber the uniformed troops, according to a report by a Congressional research group, but also form the highest ratio of contractors to military personnel recorded in any war in the history of the United States.
But let's get back to that new escalation of actual combat troops. 14,000 more. On Monday, the New York Times reported that the president already had sent an additional 21,000 troops, this year, which is 4,000 more than was originally estimated. Which will make for a grand total of 35,000 more troops, so far, this year. So far. Because the L.A. Times article continues:
The changes will not offset the potential need for additional troops in the future, but could reduce the size of any request from Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. and allied commander, officials said.
Which again raises the questions:
What is the strategy?
What is the goal?
And most importantly:
What is the end game? How does this end?
Because that earlier linked BBC article contained this nugget:
A top US general in Afghanistan has called for a revised military strategy, suggesting the current one is failing.
Failing. Despite having sent 21,000 more troops, earlier this year. Nearly eight years after the September 11 attacks. Nearly eight years after Bush blew whatever chance there once might have been to effect some positive outcome. Failing. As in August was the deadliest month yet for U.S. troops in Afghanistan, in what already was the allies' deadliest year in Afghanistan. A monthly record that broke the previous record that was set just one month before. Which makes for a trend. But sending more troops into combat will make things better? Here's a question: if the current strategy is failing, what is the new strategy? Just sending more troops?
I return to a quote from Juan Cole, from just over a week ago:
I think support for the Afghanistan war depends on the administration effectively tying it to concerns about Americans' safety and security. And since that argument is so hard to make convincingly, I can't see how public support for the war is going to come back. With dozens of U.S. troops killed in July, moreover, people are hearing more bad news than good.
What I think is true is that a poorly executed Afghanistan policy could turn Obama into a one-term president. It is too early to judge exactly what Obama's policy will be in Afghanistan, but it should become clear within a few months. So far, Obama has not made the case and hasn't explained what the end game is.
Will he? Because this has been simmering under the level of national consciousness, but it won't be forever. Someone needs to start paying attention. More than a presidency could be at stake.