Small Wars Journal

Game of Trade-Offs and Pricing a Buildup

In 3 Tacks for Afghan War, a Game of Trade-Offs - Elisabeth Bumiller, New York Times.

Should President Obama decide to send 40,000 additional American troops to Afghanistan, the most ambitious plan under consideration at the White House, the military would have enormous flexibility to deploy as many as 15,000 troops to the Taliban center of gravity in the south, 5,000 to the critical eastern border with Pakistan and 10,000 as trainers for the Afghan security forces. The rest could be deployed flexibly across the country, including to the NATO headquarters in Kabul, the capital, and in clandestine operations.

If Mr. Obama limited any additional American troops to 10,000 to 15,000, the military would deploy them largely as trainers, with some reinforcements likely in the southern province of Kandahar, the Taliban's spiritual home. The neighboring, and opium-rich, Helmand Province and the eastern border with Pakistan, military analysts say, would receive few if any American troops and would remain largely as they are today. Such trade-offs are part of the discussions under way in the West Wing and at the Pentagon as Mr. Obama and his top advisers debate escalating the eight-year-old war. And they drive home the basic point that while the numbers will dominate the headlines, what is really at stake is how to fight the war...

More at The New York Times.

Pricing an Afghanistan Troop Buildup is no Simple Calculation - Christi Parsons and Julian E. Barnes, Los Angeles Times.

As President Obama measures the potential burden of a new war strategy in Afghanistan, his administration is struggling to come up with even the most dispassionate of predictions: the actual price tag for the anticipated buildup of troops. The calculations so far have produced a sweeping range. The Pentagon publicly estimates it will cost $500,000 a year for every additional service member sent to the war zone. Obama's budget experts size it up at twice that much. In coming up with such numbers, the White House and the military have different priorities as well as different methods. The president's advisors don't want to underestimate the cost and then lose the public's faith.

The Pentagon worries about sticker shock as commanders push for an increase of as many as 40,000 troops. Both sides emphasize that their figures are estimates and could change - in fact, a Pentagon comptroller assessment this month put the number closer to that of Obama's Office of Management and Budget. Still, budgeting and politics are entwined, and numbers can always support more than one point of view...

More at The Los Angeles Times.