Afghan Security Forces Cuts Likely to be “Catastrophic,” Warns General (COMMENTARY MAGAZINE) Max Boot 02/20/12)
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Maybe it’s only because of the holiday weekend (Happy Birthday Abe!
You too, George!), but this front-page article from Saturday’s Wall
Street Journal has caused curiously little comment. It reveals that
the U.S. is developing plans to cut the Afghan Security Forces from
352,000 men today to just 230,000 in 2014 in order to save a few
billion dollars in a federal budget of almost $4 trillion. The Afghan
Security Forces budget, almost all of it paid for by the U.S., is
currently more than $11 billion; the administration would like to
reduce that figure to $4.1 billion. While the administration’s desire
for cost savings is admirable (were that it extended to domestic
programs!), the consequences of this decision, if it’s finalized, are
likely to be “catastrophic,” as Afghanistan’s Defense Minister Gen.
Abdul Rahim Wardak warns.
Keep in mind the Obama administration is also rapidly cutting the
number of U.S. troops–32,000 will be withdrawn by September, faster
than commanders had recommended. That will leave 68,000 U.S. troops
barring further cuts–but more such cuts are likely. The
administration appears determined to withdraw all or almost all of
the troops by 2014. That places a great burden on the Afghan Security
Forces which are still in the process of being stood up. The current
figure, of roughly 352,000, is the minimum necessary to police a
country of 30 million; Afghanistan would actually be more secure if
it had a force the size of the one in Iraq, where the security forces
are over 600,0000.
To then cut the already barely adequate number of troops and police
will make it essentially impossible for the Afghan government to
control its own territory barring some miraculous decision by the
Taliban and Haqqani Network to discontinue their war. But why should
they stop fighting when they know that in a few years most U.S.
troops will be withdrawn and the Afghan Security Forces will downsize
Moreover, the fighting quality and morale of the remaining Afghan
forces, after what is essentially their abandonment by the West, is
to be highly doubted. Add in the fact that under this plan the
government of Afghanistan will have to lay off 130,000 trained
security personnel. Where will they find employment in an economy
that is already in rapid decline because of the loss of foreign aid?
Many, it seems safe to surmise, may join the other side.
In short, Minister Wardak is not being hyperbolic in warning of
catastrophe. Does anyone in Washington notice or care? The answer
seems to be no. The political class, led by the president, is so bent
on withdrawing from Afghanistan and reducing defense spending that no
one seems to be particularly exercised by the fact that this could
result in the collapse of all that U.S. troops have fought so hard to
accomplish during the past decade, at such great cost to life and
limb. I doubt that Lincoln and Washington, who persevered through far
costlier and more politically divisive conflicts, would have approved.
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