34,000 more troops for Afghanistan?
It appears that President Obama is finally - finally - getting around to deciding what to do about the situation in Afghanistan.
It has taken far too long, of course, But the prospect of the president sending more troops to Afghanistan is almost a reality. Peter Baker and Helene Cooper of the New York Times are reporting that all remaining options the president is looking at involve sending more boots on the ground:
The options include Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's request for roughly another 40,000 troops; a middle scenario sending about 30,000 more troops; and a lower alternative involving 20,000 to 25,000 reinforcements, according to the officials, who insisted on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. Officials hope to present the options to Mr. Obama this week before he leaves on a trip to Asia.
While some civilian and military officials believe Mr. Obama is seeking a middle ground in the debate over Afghanistan, aides denied he has made any decision or is leaning toward any of the options. Still, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates appears to be supportive of the middle option, some officials said, and his view is thought to be pivotal because of Mr. Obama's respect for him and his status as a holdover from a Republican administration.
Meanwhile, Jonathan S. Landay, John Walcott and Nancy A. Youssef of McClatchy are pegging the number at 34,000:
President Barack Obama is nearing a decision to send more than 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan next year, but he may not announce it until after he consults with key allies and completes a trip to Asia later this month, administration and military officials have told McClatchy.
As it now stands, the administration's plan calls for sending three Army brigades from the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky. and the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y. and a Marine brigade, for a total of as many as 23,000 additional combat and support troops.
Another 7,000 troops would man and support a new division headquarters for the international force's Regional Command (RC) South in Kandahar, the Taliban birthplace where the U.S. is due to take command in 2010. Some 4,000 additional U.S. trainers are likely to be sent as well, the officials said.
The first additional combat brigade probably would arrive in Afghanistan next March, the officials said, with the other three following at roughly three-month intervals, meaning that all the additional U.S. troops probably wouldn't be deployed until the end of next year. Army brigades number 3,500 to 5,000 soldiers; a Marine brigade has about 8,000 troops.
I realize you just can't load troops on to an airplane and drop them into a combat zone but a year to get what amounts to a Corps into battle? What's with that?
If the situation is as bad as McChrystal has been saying, shouldn't just a little more urgency be shown to get those troops to the war zone?
At any rate, while falling short of McChrystal's recommendation, it far surpasses what members of his own party have been recommending. For that, we should be grateful. Supporting McChrystal as vigorously as possible seems the best policy at this point.