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November 16, 2008

A Surge in Afghanistan

A long analysis at Smal Wars Journal.

Executive Summary: The situation is far less succeptible to surge tactics due to Afghanistan having a larger population than Iraq (32 million versus Iraq's, what, 25 million?), and furthermore dispersed in small villages rather than concentrated in cities. There is no chance of achieving the doctrinal requirement of 20 insurgent troops (including indigenous forces) per 1000 of the population, even in the Pashtun areas. An optimistic projection of adding eight combat brigades (as opposed to the five surged in Iraq) only gets us a 10:1000 ration of COIN forces to population, which would be helpful, but still is only half of what doctrine suggests.

Add to that the fact that the borders are well-nigh unsecurable and that the Pashtuns in Afghanistan are determined to assist the insurgency -- and that we can't often pursue them across the borders -- and the magnitude of the problem becomes apparent.

Michael Yon, in fact, suggests that we not even attempt the surge, as he thinks the 15,000-40,000 troops we could conceivably insert into Afghanistan aren't enough as it is. He says finish the job in Iraq first.

Bush really should have increased the size of the armed forces by a division or two on Sept 11.

Another point that seems worth mentioning is that thanks to the great (leftwing happy-talk) global crusade against mines, we can't seed the various terrorist trails with mines and channel them into trails controlled by US forces. This despite the fact that the US is extremely cautious about marking, and later removing, mines, and that the loss of life from unimpeded Taliban infiltration into Afghanistan greatly exceeds the possible civilian deaths from minefields (with prominent warning signs and directions to non-mined, but guarded, alternate routes).

Correction: Small Wars Journal, not Long War Journal.



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