Classified McChrystal Report: 500,000 Troops Will Be Required Over Five Years in Afghanistan

Congress Should Hold Hearings on Alternatives to Major Escalation

Embedded in General Stanley McChrystal's classified assessment of
the war in Afghanistan is his conclusion that a successful
counterinsurgency strategy will require 500,000 troops over five years.

This bombshell was dropped by NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC's Morning Joe on Wednesday:

"The numbers are really pretty horrifying. What they
say, embedded in this report by McChrystal, is they would need 500,000
troops - boots on the ground - and five years to do the job. No one
expects that the Afghan Army could step up to that. Are we gonna put
even half that of U.S. troops there, and NATO forces? No way." [Morning Joe, September 23, 2000]

Mitchell got the figure from an independent source. It was not revealed
in the redacted version of the once classified report released by the
Pentagon earlier this week. McChrystal has warned the administration
that without an infusion of more troops the eight-year war in
Afghanistan "will likely result in failure".

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

  • 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 like a president who doesn't shift strategy when you get that kind of report?"

Right question. And the answer is: NO!

Congress should immediately convene hearings to discuss alternatives
to General McChrystal's proposal for such a massive escalation of the
war in Afghanistan. It is time for the administration and Congress to
demilitarize U.S. policy in Afghanistan and strike out in a new,
sustainable, direction.

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