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Can the US Lead Afghans? - Mark Moyar, New York Times opinion.
The Afghanistan debate is increasingly focused on two words: troop numbers. Those numbers certainly deserve serious attention as President Obama decides whether to raise them even further this year. But in Afghanistan, as in past counterinsurgencies, it is important to remember that all troop numbers are not created equal. When it comes to indigenous forces, quality often matters more than quantity, and quality often declines when quantity increases.
Current recommendations of American and Afghan troop strengths are, for the most part, based on the size of the Afghan population. Dennis Blair, the director of national intelligence, has produced figures using a ratio of 25 troops for every 1,000 Afghans. His methodology assumes that increasing American troop strength by, say, 20 percent will increase counterinsurgency capacity by roughly the same amount. That assumption is correct, because the quality of the additional American units will be broadly similar to that of the others. Where the methodology fails is in its assumption that doubling Afghan troop strength, as many now advocate, will double counterinsurgency capacity by roughly the same amount.
Where the methodology fails is in its assumption that doubling Afghan troop strength, as many now advocate, will double counterinsurgency capacity. In reality, such an increase is likely to cause quality to fall. With Afghan security forces already two-and-a-half times as large as the American forces, and America lacking the political will to reduce that ratio, the counterinsurgency cannot afford such a drop...
More at The New York Times.