New Afghan War Assumptions Must Be Weighed before a Surge

October 26, 2009

by Sean Kay

This week's announcement that there will be a runoff election in Afghanistan is the first bit of good news to come from the country for some time. Nonetheless, it is but one more illustration of how the sands of Afghanistan have shifted under America's feet and are forcing a major strategic reassessment.

The now-public report by Gen. Stanley McChrystal provides a stark assessment of the declining situation in Afghanistan. If major strategic changes are not taken within the next year, mission failure is a real possibility. Gen. McChrystal and his staff have dutifully laid out for the Obama administration what is needed to succeed in the current mission -- a fully resourced counterinsurgency effort. To this end, debate has focused on the need for more U.S. troops -- perhaps up to 40,000 -- raising the American force presence in Afghanistan to over 100,000.

Gen. McCrystal's report reflects the reality of the situation in Afghanistan after many years of catastrophic neglect by the Bush administration. Candidate Barack Obama was right to call for more troops to Afghanistan, as several years ago was the time to halt the resurgence of the Taliban. Now America finds itself with the right assessment and leadership in the field, but tragically three years too late.

Several core assumptions in the McChrystal report require serious reflection before any more forces are deployed into Afghanistan. Failure in any one of these areas would undermine the premise of surging more combat forces into Afghanistan.

This article appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 25, 2009, and can be read in its entirety here.


Sean Kay is a professor of politics and government at Ohio Wesleyan University and a nonresident fellow at the Eisenhower Institute in Washington, D.C. He is the author of Global Security in the Twenty-first Century: The Quest for Power and the Search for Peace.

Professor Kay was one of the signatories to the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy's open letter to President Obama concerning the war in Afghanistan.

Posted by coalition at October 26, 2009 11:05 AM

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