With just over two months left in office, President Bush is hoping to add his voice to the calls for a military surge in Afghanistan, and will reportedly endorse General David McKiernan’s call for an increase in the number of troops in Afghanistan.
Of course, only two months ago President Bush endorsed a Pentagon recommendation that would keep troop levels more or less unchanged in Iraq through the end of his term, so the final decision on carrying out the Afghan surge would fall on President-elect Obama. And though Obama publicly clashed with the outgoing administration on the Iraq war for much of his campaign, he made “finishing the job” in Afghanistan a cornerstone of his foreign policy from the beginning and has expressed support for adding troops in the past.
But not everyone is on board for the surge. In a strategic and operational assessment (note: PDF) retired General Barry McCaffrey opined “Afghanistan will not be solved by the addition of two or three more US combat brigades from our rapidly unraveling Army.” Secretary of Defense Robert Gates added “I think it remains to be seen whether there is a need or value to significantly more troops than that,” that being the number requested by Gen. McKiernan.
Instead, a lot of support is being given to the idea of growing the Afghan military to take more responsibility, as Gates warns that the conflict mustn’t be seen as “America’s war.” Maj. Gen. Cone says that the goal of 134,000 Afghan troops by summer 2012 is the most that can reasonably be expected, but others are calling for a force as large as 600,000. Exactly how the Afghan govt could pay for such a military is unclear.