More than one person has recently asked us, me:
"Do you support the call for more Troops in Afghanistan?"
My answer is the same as it was when asked the same thing about "The Surge?" Why? What is different that would change my answer? A different commanding General? A different Joint Chief of Staff? A different Commander in Chief? A different political party in charge?
"There is no such thing as too many friends firing at the enemy in a firefight, but it doesn't matter how many Troops are sitting safely in the rear at the time."
I was not part of the crowd that accurately prophesized that this year would be one of increased violence in Afghanistan. I knew it would be but I didn't make the statements. It is because the Taliban are feeling the crunch and are trying to prove they still have power. It is because we sent more Troops to the battlefield. It is because the Marines and Brits and Danes pushed into Helmand. Just as the deadliest months of the War In Iraq came as the crest of the Surge arrived, so too it is no surprise that more Troops and more Taliban are being killed in Afghanistan as we increase Activity there. This is not a measure of success or failure. It is a measure of resolve and sacrifice.
To win, we must as Admiral Mullen states, as I've regularly stated, demonstrate resolve, patience, commitment to win. To win we must apply both civilian construction and development and military capacity of security. To win, we must aggresively pursue the enemy and provide the facts and information of both our own generousity and enemy atrocity.
The ABC's are important: Agriculture, Bees, and Communication but they are counterproductive if they are destroyed by the enemy or claimed by the enemy 10 days after we provide them. It doesn't matter how many seeds you plant, if you never water them or someone pulls up the plants before they are pollenated by the bees you gave someone else in the valley.
COIN (Counter-Insurgency) is not the same as traditional warfare where two standing armies of two nations stand off against each other. In both, one side must destroy the will of the enemy to fight, but that is done by different means. In COIN, information proliferation is as important as enemy elimination. You can feed 10,000 kids and the enemy propaganda machine, if you allow the enemy to take credit for the full bellies. You can kill 1,000 enemy combatants and your own demonstrated success if you allow the enemy to claim their combatants were just civilian bystanders who just happened to be of their typical recruitment profile: males 14-41 years old.
To win, we must demonstrate that the enemy is atrocious, such as demonstrated in Crimes Against Islam. We cannot allow the enemy to slaughter civilians and blame that on us. We must provide truthful and factual information about the differences between the good guys and the bad guys.
COIN requires patience. As I demonstrated in The Abused, those that grew up with abusive authority figures will tend towards abusing others when they become the authority figures. It is what they know. It is not going to change overnight. But dressing authority figures in non-authority clothing is not going to change the perceptions of the people about what authority figures are. Changing the way authority figures acts, while they wear authority figure clothing will demonstrate the new values.
COIN requires demonstrated capacity by the Authority to provide safety and security. A key element of an insurgency is to demonstrate their own ability to act when and how they desire. COIN then requires the demonstration that when insurgents break the law, when they murder or intimidate, they are captured, killed, or otherwise removed from the picture.
Tyrannical COIN rests on intimidation, as demonstrated in Iran. It is quick and effective and the reason why Saddam, the Ayatollah, and Kim Il Jong have held power (or did) for decades.
Do I support more Troops in Afghanistan? If the Ground Commander (General McCrystal) says he needs more Troops to secure Victory, then the politicians should give him the tools to do the job. If the politicians refuse the Commander the tools he needs to do the job they gave him, then they are the ones responsible for failure. If the Commander is given all the tools he needs and fails, then it is his responsibility.
From the perspective of a politician, I'd be very careful with that one. It's a lose-lose situation if they refuse the General the tools, ie. the people, the Troops, he needs. They gave him the job. They fired the last guy before he was given the tools he told them he needed. In fact our current party in power achieved their power by campaigning for Afghanistan as the "just war," and Iraq as the "lost war." The party in power lost their bid to undermine General Petraeus when he asked for more Troops to win in Iraq and still refuse to admit the victories he achieved by getting the tools he needed from the CinC.
Given, the successes General Petraeus acheived, given his command of the General in Afghanistan, given his endorsement of giving General McChrystal the Troops he needs, the politicians should have learned their lesson. The politicians in power can still lose both Iraq and Afghanistan if they interfere sufficiently in the role of Generals, but they can no longer blame someone else if they do.
To win at COIN takes Patience, Commitment, Security, Information, but primarily, it requires convincing the people of that Nation that the Government can provide them Safety and Security to Survive the Daily Challenges of life, while the people create their economic futures. That Government must provide good governance, sufficient infrastructure, proper education, and the general means for the citizenry to live a satisfactorily successful life.
The Bees are important in pollenizing the crops and sometimes providing those bees and the lost knowledge of maintaining the hive is necessary, but so too is providing an enviroment where the enemy cannot steal or destroy those beehives. And hence General McChrystal, General Petraeus, and Admiral Mullen should get more Troops if they say they need them.
But I will caveat the answer of Troop Numbers with the fact that it depends on how those Troops are used. Just as there is no such thing as too many friends firing at the enemy in a firefight, so too it doesn't matter how many Troops are stationed in the "safety" of the rear area. If you add 10,000 Troops walking around Bagram in reflective belts but not one Warrior to any patrol in any part of the Nation, it does nothing to provide for the safety of citizens in Konduz to build their internet cafe.