Small Wars Journal

Two Afghanistan Scenarios in War Game

US Tested 2 Afghan Scenarios in War Game - Greg Jaffe and Karen DeYoung, Washington Post.

The Pentagon's top military officer oversaw a secret war game this month to evaluate the two primary military options that have been put forward by the Pentagon and are being weighed by the Obama administration as part of a broad-based review of the faltering Afghanistan war, senior military officials said. The exercise, led by Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, examined the likely outcome of inserting 44,000 more troops into the country to conduct a full-scale counterinsurgency effort aimed at building a stable Afghan government that can control most of the country. It also examined adding 10,000 to 15,000 more soldiers and Marines as part of an approach that the military has dubbed "counterterrorism plus." Both options were drawn from a detailed analysis prepared by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the senior commander in Afghanistan, and were forwarded to President Obama in recent weeks by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

The Pentagon war game did not formally endorse either course; rather, it tried to gauge how Taliban fighters, the Afghan and Pakistani governments and NATO allies might react to either of the scenarios. Mullen, a key player in the game, has discussed its conclusions with senior White House officials involved in the discussions over the new strategy. One of the exercise's key assumptions is that an increase of 10,000 to 15,000 troops would not in the near future give US commanders the forces they need to take back havens from the Taliban commanders in southern and western Afghanistan, where shadow insurgent governors collect taxes and run court systems based on Islamic sharia law...

More at The Washington Post.


Rob Farrell (not verified)

Tue, 10/27/2009 - 12:49pm

This sort of exercise is definately a prudent thing to do. I'd be interested in the detailed results, but I'm sure I won't be privy to it. I would speculate that the 44K surge played pretty well, dependent on Afghan ability to accelerate training and battlespace assumption. The 15K option may have still played ok, but likely was not assessed as effective in reversing the current trend for a period of 1-2 years (or perhaps more).

Bad news in the last week out of Afghanistan. That has to be effecting the political environment surrounding this decision.

M-A Lagrange

Thu, 10/29/2009 - 4:54am

I would have been very interrested in knowing what model they used for AQ and Taleb. How they did integrate the cultural background and all the honor parameters that would influx on the population choice to follow or not the US.
Is that possible to come with a model to think like the enemy? Especially in that context.
Most probably. So how do we integrate it in our actions?

oldpapajoe (not verified)

Thu, 10/29/2009 - 8:06am

All wargames are simulations. In short, an approximation of the physical characteristics of opposing forces. As M-A Lagrange pointed out, it would be useful to see what model/type of simulation the Pentagon planners employed. I am not an expert on simulations. As a result, there may be some new simulation that models the behaviors of irregular forces. Unlike the old Cold War models which used firepower, protection, mobility, logistical requirements, etc. these new models must be very sophisticated or very antiquated--as in humans play each side and some neutral "umpire" adjudicates the engagements.

Ray (not verified)

Thu, 10/29/2009 - 1:03pm

I'm guessing that the wargame was more likely intended to rehearse/examine the friendly and neutral effects of the two options rather than the military outcomes. I'm thinking of things like sourcing and training units, finding key specialists, getting the right equipment. Then flowing all that in, basing and sustaining it, and organizing it into rational commands and AOs, as well as managing the handoffs with currently in-place forces.

These sorts of questions lend themselves well to wargames.

As has been implied, what effect the two options will have inside the skulls of tribal leaders, drug lords, farmers, warlords, journalists, aid workers and mullahs does not.