Obama Narrows Afghan Options: 34,000-Troop Escalation Favored

Massive Escalation Seems Modest Compared to McChrystal Demands

In March, President Obama approved a roughly 21,000 man escalation in Afghanistan, which at the time was an enormous escalation of a war which President Bush had himself escalated just a few months prior.

Gen. Stanley McChrystalThis escalation accomplished little, and 2009 has ended up being the deadliest year by far since the 2001 US invasion. President Obama will therefore be sending another massive escalation to the nation very soon.

Advisers have reportedly narrowed it down to three options, a 20,000-25,000 troop escalation, a 45,000 troop escalation, and a “compromise” of about 34,000 which is seen as the favorite at the moment.

Though 34,000 is an enormous additional commitment, and will likely strain the military with 120,000 troops still on the ground in Iraq (and likely not going anywhere for quite some time) and around 68,000 in Afghanistan already, it is being treated as a very modest move.

It isn’t hard to see why, either. Gen. McChrystal’s much publicized 40,000 troop request quickly became 45,000, and then 60,000. By mid-October, the McChrystal Plan was calling for 80,000 additional troops. Though the military literally didn’t have 80,000 or even 60,000 additional troops to send, the fact that the idea was put out there will likely play to President Obama’s favor, and will make his 34,000 troop “surge” look like a reasonable response by comparison.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.