An old military maxim states, "Amateurs think about strategy and professionals think about logistics." At West Point I taught cadets the U.S. Constitution, which clearly empowers Congress to be active in logistic questions of war. After the release of documents questioning current and past operations in Afghanistan, Congress faces a tough logistical question about the future -- who will pay for the Afghan military once America leaves? That the answer is not the Afghans, nor America, nor our allies means that America will lose in Afghanistan even if the current training mission succeeds.
All roads to success in Afghanistan depend on building the Afghan security forces so our troops can finally come home. My experience as a Special Forces officer was in building a professional Iraqi military from scratch. No easy task, but my challenges in Iraq paled next to the challenges faced by our troops in Afghanistan: the second most corrupt nation in the world, millennia without a strong or legitimate central government, poor education and infrastructure, and a tribal mentality.
Setting aside these significant challenges, logistics determine American blood and tax dollars will create a force too small to secure Afghanistan yet too large for Afghanistan to maintain. The U.S. Army’s current counterinsurgency doctrine recommends a minimum force ratio of 1:50 (i.e. an Afghan policeman or solider to keep the peace for every 50 civilians). Afghanistan's current population is 29,121,000. Therefore, securing Afghanistan will require, at minimum, 582,000 Afghan security personnel, a force larger than the active U.S. Army.
Yet America’s current mission is not to expand the Afghan security force to 582,000, but 400,000. Even this reduced number will still cost Afghanistan at least 20% of its GDP, by far the greatest percentage on military spending by any nation.
Who will pay for the future Afghan Army? The Afghans can't. Our allies won't. And America's soaring deficits indicate America can't pay forever.
After a decade of U.S. military sacrifice and billions of taxpayer dollars, America will have created 400,000 trained, armed but unpaid Afghans. Their future employment is the seed of the next Afghan Civil War or a nuclear armed Al Qaeda.
It is past time for Congress to make the difficult decisions about Afghanistan. Tax dollars spent building an Afghan military are dollars not spent towards defeating Al Qaeda. America's limited security resources must be focused on hunting down and destroying Al Qaeda where it exists -- in Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia -- not where it was or could be one day.
This logistical reality becomes more expensive every day Congress waits. With the lowest number of veterans in Congress since World War II, Congress must believe it is unqualified to ask these logistical questions now. But nine years in, it is far past time for Congress to start thinking about Afghanistan as professionals, not amateurs.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Sowers: It is past time for Congress to make difficult decisions about Afghanistan
In an op-ed sent out this week, Tommy Sowers, the Democratic candidate for the Eighth District Congressional seat currently held by Republican Jo Ann Emerson, says that after nine years it is time for Congress to get down to business and make the difficult decisions about Afghanistan: