Dec 01, 2009

How President Obama decided on the Afghanistan strategy

How President Obama decided on the Afghanistan strategy CNN National Security Analyst Three senior administration officials outlined on Tuesday some of the concepts and processes that went into President Obama’s new plan for Afghanistan. Between September 13 and November 23 the president chaired 10 meetings of his national security team to deliberate over the new strategy. The president agreed with the ground commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal’s assessment from the summer that the key goal of the strategy was to reverse the momentum of the Taliban in the next 12 months. He selected from the menu of troop deployment options the one that got American boots on the ground in the most rapid manner. There are six objectives those forces will try to accomplish. First, reverse the momentum of the Taliban in coming months. Second, deny the Taliban access to key cities and population centers as well as control of major roads. Third, prevent al Qaeda from regaining a safe haven in Afghanistan. Fourth, degrade the Taliban to the point that the Afghan army and police can take up responsibility for security in certain districts and provinces. Fifth, build up the size of the Afghan army to 134,000 by 2010 and also the size of the police so that by the summer of 2011 the U.S. and NATO can start handing over security to the Afghan army in certain areas. Right now, of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces only one, Kabul province, is entirely under Afghan military and police control. The officials emphasized that the handover to Afghan security services in 2011 would likely be possible only in "some parts of the country." Sixth, to build up the key institutions of the Afghan government such as the Ministry of the Interior. To help achieve those goals the US will deploy 30,000 soldiers into Afghanistan and NATO and other countries helping in the effort in Afghanistan are expected to contribute a further 5,000 to 7,000 soldiers. The cost of the troop deployment will be $35 billion – some of that consumed by servicemen’s salaries and benefits and the rest to be spent in building Forward Operating Bases for the troops of the surge in a country with little infrastructure and also to supply mine resistant troop vehicles known as MRAPS. (In Helmand Province 80 percent of Marine casualties are caused by the mines known as IEDs.) A further dimension of the strategy is to encourage the “reintegration” of those Taliban fighters willing to lay down their arms, although one official conceded that senior Taliban leaders had shown little interest in taking such offers up, as for the moment, they believe they are winning the war in Afghanistan.