October 12th, 2009
06:35 PM ET
13 years ago

How many troops are enough for Afghan strategy?

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/10/12/afghanistan.troops/art.soldierafghan2.gi.jpg caption="The Obama administration is working on a strategic review of improving conditions in Afghanistan."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Determining the amount of troops necessary to win a war is never an easy decision for a commander in chief and his military commanders if history is any guide.

And it's a dilemma President Obama facesas pressure mounts on him to decide what strategy will improve conditions in Afghanistan.

The president and his top military, national security and foreign policy advisers are conducting an intensive strategic review of the U.S. military presence in the war-torn nation.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, is calling for a counterinsurgency strategy that would add as many as 40,000 troops.

But others in the administration want a different approach.

Vice President Joe Biden has called for a counterterrorism strategy, which would focus on using special forces and technology to reduce the number of al Qaeda insurgents on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

If the president should listen to McChrystal and adopt a troop "surge," the question remains: How many is enough?

One expert said such a large number is needed to reduce violence throughout the country - the 40,000 troops would allow the U.S. military to "reverse the momentum of the insurgency, which has been on the rise," said Kimberly Kagan of the Institute for the Study of War, who has advised McChrystal on Afghanistan.

That number, Kagan said, would help fill in gaps around Kandahar in the southern part of the country where Taliban forces have amassed. But she warned that eventually, troops would also be needed to tamp down the insurgency in other parts of the country.

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soundoff (45 Responses)
  1. annie against biased news

    As usual obama is sitting back trying to figure out how to vote 'present' while our troops are being killed off and biden wouldn't know how to run a boy scout troop much less the military.

    October 12, 2009 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  2. cgillette369

    maybe draft all of Calif and NY. send them over.

    October 12, 2009 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  3. Doug

    President Obama has begun the process to reverse himself on both his war policy and his generals. Number three is coming soon as both the President and Sec. Gates pull a reverse strategy at DOD.

    October 12, 2009 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  4. Todd (not the Alaska Separatist)

    Well how many troops did the Russians have in Afghanistan? Or the British 170 years earlier? And how many British troops safely left under a white flag? Answer: 1 out of a departing contingent of around 16,000.

    October 12, 2009 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  5. Get Real

    The number is "Whatever it takes to win and get out!"" DUH!!!

    October 12, 2009 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  6. Roger in CA

    As much as it pains me, I think I have to agree with the Republicans on all this. Afghanistan is a mess (though the primary responsibility for that lies squarely on the shoulders of the Bushies' neglect in favor of their quixotic Iraq adventure) but it must not be allowed to collapse again into complete chaos.

    At the risk of reprising some of the same justifications as used for fighting in Vietnam, we have to be vigilent that the U.S. remains a credible deterrant to al Qaeda and whatever next (perhaps even worse) gang of Islamo-fascist hoodlums are waiting in the wings. Also, we can't allow Afghanistan to become a spreading cancer of instability in the region.

    Plus, we've asked so much of the Aghan people, and have the moral obligation to keep them from falling back under the grip of the Taliban.

    October 12, 2009 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  7. quasar63

    You cannot take a country, a belief, a hatred and change it by killing whatever they have left. It don't work that way. I agree with Vice-President Biden, Send in the drones. to monitor, if you must. but we are the invaders in this game, always have been. The aggressor never wins. Bin-Laden, Bush, Obama 1 must stand apart message from Norway. now what think u?

    October 12, 2009 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  8. Censorship in Practice form at CNN--S Callahan NYS

    For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing the soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges teh thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the yes of him to who we must give account.

    God's speed and wisdom to President Obama in making this decision. We are praying for you.

    October 12, 2009 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  9. Censorship in Practice form at CNN--S Callahan NYS

    For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing the soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to who we must give account. Hebrews 4

    God's speed and wisdom to President Obama in making this decision. We are praying for you.

    October 12, 2009 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  10. DanTheSensibleMan

    I don't understand, where was all the outcry from the right when Bush withdrew troops to go fight in Iraq allowing the taliban to gain a renewed strength having a nice 4 year time period to recruit in peace in the pashtun regions of afghanistan and pakistan which nearly destabilized pakistan. So why now are they all criticizing Obama, because the Republicans have always tried to make the democrats look weak and indicisive. Classic play out of the Republican play book. That being said, I agree that we do need to have a new surge the likes of the original push into the region but instead of chasing them to the imaginary border between afghanistan and pakistan and then just digging in we need to follow through and take care of pakistans tribes in the north west frontier province that help the taliban. In my opinion what Pakistan wants does not matter anymore, they have lossed control of the region and we will have to clean it up.

    October 12, 2009 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  11. Jenn, Philadelphia

    While this President ponders whether to listen to what his hand-picked general wants, our soldiers are dying. Why has the insurgency increased in recent weeks? Because our President has shown himself to be the stereotypical "weak on defense" liberal Democrats are always accused of being. You held a press conference and described your strategy for Afghanistan, and then appointed your own general. Now give him what he needs, Mr. President, or bring them all home. This indecision is killing them.

    October 12, 2009 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  12. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    So McCrystal is basically saying we need a surge just like the one that worked in Iraq, and Biden is saying let's do things just like the failed Rumsfeld Iraq strategy. Let's see, how many years in uniform did Biden have? Oh that's right, not a single day, just like his shirker boss.

    October 12, 2009 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  13. T Mckinley

    We should have done this in 2003 INSTEAD of invading Iraq...

    Bush and Cheney should have been IMPEACHED for their stupidity!

    October 12, 2009 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  14. T Mckinley

    Why wasn't this done in 2003?

    Oh yeah...we "had" to invade Iraq.

    Bush and Cheney should have been IMPEACHED for their stupidity!

    Why weren't they?

    Look at the absolute MESS they left for our current President!

    October 12, 2009 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  15. Tim

    I don't know but I do know that Biden has no clue. I'd stick with the generals recomendation.

    By the way, in late March, Obama announced what he called a new strategy in Afghanistan, after what he said was extensive and comprehensive reviews of the situation. So when he makes his new announcement and starts with the phrase "let me be clear", that is code for I have no idea what I am doing but let me be clear what I mean at this point in time.

    October 12, 2009 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  16. kr

    Any amount will never be enough. This war will go on and on. We are 8 years to late. Look how many we have lost In Iraq and your warmongers keep calling for more and more. My son has been to Iraq twice and Afganistan three times. Russia had to pull out and their forces are bigger than ours. i want to know what makes us think WE CAN WIN?

    October 12, 2009 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  17. Habte

    So, we have been engaged in Afghanistan for over 8 years now. More then 7 years under GWB. We went in there had a successful pushout of al-Qaeda. But, because Bush was distracted with a war of choice (Iraq), he did not provide enough attention, resources and man power to Afghanistan to finish the war; and we are still there. Soon after he got in office, Obama implemented the plan to send 21,000 more troops and he is now re-thinking his strategy to see what is best. Why is he being ridiculed by many on the right for doing his job? He is the Commander in Chief but he does not to command? Didn’t the General take his time in accessing and getting to his conclusion? Why can’t the Commander in Chief get the time he needs to assess his decision? Where were all the cries about not helping the troops when our men and women in uniform in Afghanistan have been under funded and trooped for the past 7 years? Do all these critics really believe that the generals didn’t want more troops for the past 7 years? This is just a great example of how determined folks on the right and particularly the right wing media are in attacking Obama.

    October 12, 2009 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  18. jp,michigan

    Is this the Afgan surge?

    October 12, 2009 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  19. LacrosseMom

    The majority of Americans want this senseless war to end! NO amount of Troops will make a difference.

    The British fought in Afghanistan for ............ 80 YEARS.

    The Soviet fought in Afghanistan for ........ 10 years.

    We have been there for ........ EIGHT. What has been accomplished? We can not demand freedom and democracy. The people of Afghanistan must fight their own war against the Taliban. They must be the ones to reject the Taliban.


    October 12, 2009 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  20. ICARE

    How many people are willing to die for the war? Then this is how many people we should send over there.

    Please start a volunteer list now so we can figure out whehter or not we need to go over there.

    October 12, 2009 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  21. Peter s

    Unless the whole population joins the military there will never be enough troops to fight in Afghanistan. The topography of that country complicates any military measures!. its too late now to cut and run! so, only a top notch strategy can win the war!!.. Slaughter goats with the locals, make convenants! win trust! don't patronize! respect their culture! shoot from the hip faced with imment danger!!

    October 12, 2009 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  22. Four and The Door

    But Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Massachusetts, who also appeared on ABC, said that enlarging the U.S. footprint in Afghanistan would be a mistake.

    "We need to come up with a strategy that includes an exit strategy..."
    In any event, establishing security is the first part of any exit strategy that gets us out for good...not to return later. Until we do that, further planning is putting the cart before the horse.

    October 12, 2009 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  23. joe m

    it seems a little silly to ask this question, when the man the president hand picked to determine the needs has given a definite number. for all his foreign policy credentials, the VEEP, as far as i know, has never led troops in any armed conflict. if the question were, how many more tropps could be needed, then maybe it would be more interesting. but for now, the general in charge of formulating a plan that would result in the best possible outcome has provided the best numbers and it may be best for the president to put more weight on this than any other opinion.

    October 12, 2009 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  24. Simmy

    Gen. McChrystal needs to submit his mouth to the authority of the White House........Warhogs always want more, never less......I watched MSNBC's Richard Engel's "Tip of the Spear" documentary, and was tremendously moved by the unrelenting sacrifices of our troops......They work 24/7, in constant danger, away from loved ones; most times forgotten, until the mention of one whose life has been cut short......

    I thought about them, and reflected on Wall Street, bank, and insurance tycoons, who have devastated and ravaged our country.......They do little work, get to leave the office whenever, and make more as individuals than most small companies do..........What have they done for US lately? An unfair and unbalanced dichotomy......God is watching.....

    October 12, 2009 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  25. HJA

    What is wrong with people. They have been fighting there since before we became a country. Anybody ever heard of a place called Viet Nam?
    Does almost 60,000 dead mean anything. Those who forget the past are doomed to relive it. Our troops are brave and honorable but this makes no sense.

    October 12, 2009 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
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