Small Wars Journal

Not Enough Troops Available?

New Afghan War Headache: Not Enough Troops Available? - David Wood, Politics Daily.

Beneath Washington's political squabbling over a new war strategy for Afghanistan is a deeper concern, this one among the Pentagon's war planners: not enough troops to go around. It's easy to overlook in Washington, but the Army still has almost 100,000 soldiers deployed in Iraq, and it's becoming less clear when they're coming home. With the growing demands of the Afghanistan war and other global commitments, the Army currently has more soldiers deployed overseas than it had at the height of the Iraq "surge'' in 2007.

At that time, it was widely predicted that the strain on soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen and their families was so severe that the military would simply "shatter.'' That was nonsense, of course. The troops, wives, mothers, kids, simply sucked it up and kept on driving. Why? The grunts I've lived with in Afghanistan and Iraq love what they're doing (you gotta ignore the usual and constant griping), they know they're good at it, and their families honor that service. But there has been a cost, and they are paying it.

Here's what worries the planners: The Army has 44 brigade combat teams (BCTs), its basic deploying unit of between 3,500 and 4,500 soldiers. Of those, 19 brigade combat teams are already committed, including 11 in Iraq and five in Afghanistan. One BCT is stationed in Korea, one trains deploying soldiers at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., and one BCT is on strategic alert for potential crises...

More at Politics Daily.


William Poole (not verified)

Mon, 11/09/2009 - 7:37pm

Where is the Coalition?

I concur with the comments of both Wood and Morgan. With the on-going commitment in Iraq there doesnt appear to be enough troops to cover down on any significant increase in forces in Afghanistan. It is noble to report that the troops will "suck it up" and go where they are told, but it doesnt make it right. Maintaining on or about 100,000 troops in Iraq until 60-90 days after the next election will make for a hugely complex redeployment of 50-70k of forces in a relatively short time in order to meet the self-imposed 30 AUG 09 deadline. I would guess that in order to meet any substantial OEF troop increase ordered by POTUS it might require violating dwell time policy or extended tours for troops already in Afghanistan.

Conversely, where are our allies in southwest Asia? It has always troubled me that not one Arab or Muslim nation contributed any significant troop strength to either of our two current conflicts. Where was the Jordanian or Egyptian armored division securing western Iraq? Or the Indian infantry division using their mountaineering skills to search the forbidding Afghani terrain where all agree Al Qaeda is hiding? The fire has been raging in the backyards of our "supposed" allies for the past years and these nations have done little to nothing to help put it out.

It is also interesting to note that in 1990-1991 the US was able to put together an impressive international coalition of Arab nations to expel Saddam from Kuwait. Saddam actually enjoyed a semblance of support on the "Arab street" before and during his invasion of Kuwait but yet the Arab nations still sent BDE+ sized units to the fight. This fact greatly eased the political strain faced by the USG in having such a large western military presence in Saudi Arabia.

Ten years later... while the Arab world expressed its sorrow resulting from the 9-11 attacks they have really done little to openly support the US in its endeavors to reshape the Middle East into a more peaceful place. It appears obvious that these countries are all too willing to sit back and let the US expend itself fighting two wars. The cultural and religious ties that bind Muslim nations in this part of the world have clearly trumped the seemingly obvious political gains to be made from a peaceful, Saddam-less Middle East. Much of the current paradigm was forecasted by Huntington in his seminal article "Clash of Civilizations" in 1993. Traditional nation-state conflict has most assuredly been replaced by cultural/religious conflict on an order magnitude few thought possible.

While not a fan of any substantial troop increase in Afghanistan, I agree that putting resources into a more robust advisory role would provide more tangible results than simply putting 6-8 more BCTs into the breach. The current advise and assist BDE concept is a good start but I feel it could further be expanded by clearing out cubicles across the Army and getting more senior officers and NCOs into the mix and assigning them advisory duties. Maybe it means someone misses the War College or First Sergeant Course but the time has come to put aside the peacetime admin policies and make a concerted effort to get this right. If not, lets go home.

"The views expressed in this blog posting are those of
the author and do not reflect the official policy or
position of the Department of the Army, Department
of Defense or the U.S. Government."

Is it too far-fetched to think of asking the Iraqis to send some forces (maybe a couple of BNs to start) to A'stan to assist in terrorist hunting or even help train the ANSF? This would likely have to be done with US advisers embedded with the Iraqis.

Is it politically feasible to request assistance rom the Indian Army? They are familiar with the area (certainly the region), speak the language (I'm sure some of them do), and have plenty of forces avaiable.

Finally, should we consider sending in fewer units for combat operations and refocus the BCTs on the adviser other words, instead of sending 40,000 more troops to fight, send 20,000 advisers to embed in ANA and ANP/ border police units, put them in the villages and towns throughout the south and east, and let them engage the Talibs and AQ? With 12 men per team, that's roughly 1600 ANA BNs we can cover, or 800 ANA kandaks and 800 local police units, etc...

Just brain-storming here.