Gen. McChrystal Says He Will Need 500,000 Troops Over Five Years in Afghanistan

That is the bombshell (you should pardon the pun) that Andrea Mitchell dropped on Morning Joe today. That number, by the way, is not in the unclassified version of the McChrystal report that was leaked to Bob Woodward. It’s in the complete, unredacted, classified report — according to Tom Andrews at The Huffington Post, Mitchell got it from “an independent source”:

There are perhaps only two people in America who think that this level of commitment is sustainable by the United States and its allies, and they left office last January.

Thankfully, President Obama is re-thinking his Afghanistan strategy from top to bottom in light of McChrystal’s report. In addition to the impossibility of sustaining the level of commitment this doomed-to-fail strategy would require are these stubborn facts:

  • 2009 is already the deadliest year for U.S. forces since the war began eight years ago. Fifty-one of the seven hundred and thirty eight U.S. soldiers who have lost their lives in Afghanistan were killed last month alone.
  • The national Afghanistan election that Ambassador Karl Eikenberry hoped would lead to a “renewal of trust of the Afghan people for their government” was a disaster and has had the opposite effect. The European Union election monitor has found that over 1 million votes for President Karzai, one third of his total, may be fraudulent. General McChrystal himself describes the Afghanistan government as “riddled with corruption”. A government already mired in allegations of widespread fraud and corruption, now facing serious charges and compelling evidence that it has attempted to steal the national election, has no hope of regaining the support of the people of Afghanistan.
  • A February 2009 ABC/BBC/ARD poll found that only 18 percent of Afghans support increasing the number of U.S. troops in their country. This should come as no surprise. Historically, Afghans have always forcefully resisted the presence of foreign military forces, be they British, Soviet or American.
  • The presence of foreign forces strengthens the hand of Taliban recruiters. An independent analysis early this year by the Carnegie Institute concluded that the presence of foreign troops is probably the single most important factor in the resurgence of the Taliban.

Andrea Mitchell hit the nail on the head after revealing that 500,000 troops would be required over five years on MSNBC:

Would you prefer to have a president who doesn’t shift strategy when he gets this kind of ground troop from the commanders?

Right question. And the answer is: NO!

Author: KATHY KATTENBURG

Share This Post On

16 Comments

  1. So thats approximately an average of 50 thousand a year beyond what we have there now.

    I'd say YES! at least for now, give him the troops he asks for and evaluate the results after a year, if progress is made continue to support the effort, if not consider pulling out.

    Just make sure that they have the proper strategy and administration. Obama needs to fulfill his promise to the troops in Afgahanistan.

  2. Would you prefer to have a president who doesn’t shift strategy when he gets this kind of ground troop from the commanders?

    I'd prefer to have a president who didn't back himself into a corner with campaign promises.

    Since we don't have that, hopefully we have a president that knows to stop playing when you have a bad hand.

  3. The presence of foreign troops is bolstering the insurgency, true, but that doesn't mean the trend can't be stopped if US strategy adapts by: A: ceasing to view the insurgency as one monolithic 'Taliban' movement and B: focusing on protecting the Afghan people, thus winning the much touted hearts and minds and winning some tribal allies.

  4. Whatever McChrystal is he's not stupid and knows full well that 500,000 troops is not going to happen. It would require a draft which which both Republicans and Democrats would oppose and a huge boost in defense spending which few would support since that would require tax hikes.

  5. A couple days ago during a debate about the war being “winable”, I asked the question, “is the war worth winning considering the cost?”

    500,000 troops over 5 years….That is one hell of a cost. Not just in money, but also stress on our military.

    That is one seriously scary number.

  6. Whatever McChrystal is he's not stupid and knows full well that 500,000 troops is not going to happen. It would require a draft which which both Republicans and Democrats would oppose and a huge boost in defense spending which few would support since that would require tax hikes.

    Don't misread 500,000 boots on the ground as equating 500,000 US troops.

  7. This post is misleading. It implies 500k American troops – not so.

  8. Even if it is 300,000 US soldiers over 5 years, that is a lot of stress. I am not saying the cost isn't worth what we might gain, but I think with numbers like this…we might need to step back and have a public debate.

    Last week we were talking about what?…40k US? We really need to know what the total US commitment has to be…what our allies are willing to contribute…and the progress of the Afghan military.

  9. “I'd say YES! at least for now, give him the troops he asks for and evaluate the results after a year,”

    'Course you would. And where do you think they are going to come from? There are not enough people in the US that want a college education to meet that number, so say hello to GREETINGS FROM THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:

    And didn't we hear this 500,000 number from a General before? Who was that General again? Oh, yeah. Shinseki! Remember him? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Shinseki Run off because he dared say the real number that would be needed in Iraq AND, that number did not guarantee success?

    I guess “boots on the ground” really is important after all.

    You come up with the boots, and let Obama ship them off and it will be Viet Nam all over again.

  10. I'd prefer to have a president who didn't back himself into a corner with campaign promises.

    Has there ever been one of those?

  11. Iraq turned into a quagmire because we didn't have an exit plan. We have a big enough military to get into a country, but getting out isn't so easy. The 500,000 number is pretty meaningless without knowing the rest of the plan.

  12. So now Spencer Ackerman is a trusted source of those on the right?

    And police count as “troops”?

    This part of Spencer's last paragraph makes sense to me.

    We’re going to have McChrystal’s request in a couple of days. Petraeus also said yesterday that we’ll have two weeks of high-level debate over strategy and resourcing questions. Until we have hard data, let’s all take a deep breath before going crazy with speculation, and certainly before we allow speculation to overtake basic contextualization.

  13. Even if it is 300,000 US soldiers over 5 years, that is a lot of stress.

    What if its only 100,000 US troops total total ie 32 thousand more than now? What if its 75,000US troops Only 7,000 more? Until we have an actual request, its all just specualtion.

  14. Leonidas, I think you must be right that the troop figures include a huge number of Afghan troops.
    No way the U.S. can send that many of our own. Unfortunately, relying on the Afghans is probably a really, awful, terribly bad idea. This is a long read, but I'll give you the link.

    http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175116

    short story:
    Meet the Afghan Army
    Is It a Figment of Washington's Imagination?
    By Ann Jones

    “Afghans are Afghans. They have their own history, their own culture, their own habitual ways of thinking and behaving, all complicated by a modern experience of decades of war, displacement, abject poverty, and incessant meddling by foreign governments near and far — of which the United States has been the most powerful and persistent. Afghans do not think or act like Americans. Yet Americans in power refuse to grasp that inconvenient point.”

  15. You got it Joe, the mistake Westerners make is thinking of Afghanistan as a country. It is a collection of independent tribes within some boundaries drawn by someone else. Americans may be Americans and the British may be British but the Afghans are Pashtuns, Tajics etc.

  16. Yea Ron, folks in the military are used to training up new recruits and getting them up to speed pretty quickly. This works really well 99% of the time when the recruits are Amercians (of any color, religion, financial background, etc.) Iraq had a strong professional Army, but we discarded it (making a lot of new enemies) and started from scratch. After all these years, they still can't take take care of themselves. When I was in the Army (after Vietnam was over) I heard many stories of the South Vietnamese troops that we had trained turning tail and running when attacked by the VC. Did not make our guys very comfortable working with them.
    If you haven't already read the Ann Post article, wade through it. We'll never have a fighting Afghan Army that looks and fights like ours.
    Take away all the heavy equipment, give them a good rifle and they can run up and down the mountains all day.
    We need to change the training model or co-opt the militias that are already there. What many ignorati claim was a successful troop “surge” in Iraq was more about paying off the local militias and putting them to work.
    Let the war hawks call it a “surge” in Afghanistan, hire the local militias to do the work on the ground,call it a victory and bring our troops home.

Submit a Comment