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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Senior Military Adviser: 10 More Years in Afghanistan in Best Case Scenario

By: Ryan Jaroncyk, THL Contributor

David Kilcullen, senior military adviser to General Stanley McChrystal, has been highly critical of the war's management in Afghanistan. In a speech at the U.S. Institute of Peace, Kilcullen outlined a "best case scenario" of ten more years in Afghanistan: two more years of heavy fighting, three years of transition to Afghan forces, and five years of supervision.

If this scenario plays out, the U.S. will have conducted wartime operations for eighteen years in Afghanistan. The British Army's new Chief of Staff, Sir David Richards contends that the conflict will drag out for as long as 40 years, saying: "I believe that the UK will be committed to Afghanistan in some manner – development, governance, security sector reform – for the next 30 to 40 years." This raises a number of troubling questions.

According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the U.S. is projected to run $1-$2 trillion budget deficits for the next decade. We're projected to double the national debt, already at a whopping $11 trillion, in the next five years. How can we afford ten more years of war in Afghanistan? What will such an extended occupation do to the value of the Dollar? The Dollar has already lost over 30% of its value since 2002.

How many more "surges" will be required? The current administration, as well as military leaders, are already discussing the necessity of a second "surge" later this year. How many more men and women are we prepared to lose? The latest surge is already spiking the casualty count. Last month was the deadliest month for U.S. and NATO forces since the war began in 2001, and August has already had a bloody beginning. What about the consequences of repeated deployments as witnessed in the record suicide rates and post-traumatic stress disorder epidemic currently plaguing the military? Even Kilcullen, an advocate of extended deployment, is urging both the military and political leadership to address some of these critical questions.

Ironically, the current administration is developing new measurements or "benchmarks" for success in Afghanistan. But, why weren't these specific benchmarks drafted before the latest "surge"? And why are we establishing measurements for success, and not total victory? Or, can we even define what victory actually means?

In the bigger picture, are we now prepared, as a nation, to accept six, eight, or eighteen year wars abroad, in third world countries? What about swift, decisive, and overwhelming victory? After all, we possess the world's most powerful and technologically advanced military.

Now, what are some of your questions and concerns? What would be some of your solutions?