On air: How many troops are needed in Afghanistan?

 UPDATE: Ros here. Just out of the meeting and we’re going to go with this. Juts a reminder that this is a discussion about what to do now. So if you opposed the war in the first place, we still want to hear your view of the war that’s happening. On another point, there’s no assumption that you want an Afghanistan without the Taliban. Idf tht’s your view, we still want to hear what you want Us and NATO commanders to do now.


“it’s not about doubling down or leaving”  – Obama administration official.

afghan troops

Ok, now we know what President Obama’s review of the war in Afghanistan WON’T include .

He won’t be cutting the number of troops.

This blogger is frustrated at the slow pace of the review,  but our own Europe Correspondent, Mark Mardell, says :

“There appears to be a frustration that the review of strategy has, at times, been portrayed in black and white terms of a massive increase or reduction of troop numbers.”

The mood has been reflected in a BBC commissioned poll published yesterday. Results found that more than  half of Britons oppose the country’s military campaign in Afghanistan.  A decision to send an additional 1000 British troops to Afghanistan is currently pending.

Only last month, General Stanley McCystal, Nato commander in Afghanistan  called for an additional 40000 troops to be sent to Afghanistan, without which he felt the game was up. Obama’s not planning on cutting troops – but there aren’t any signs of him increasing them either.  And Obama’s indecision is costing lives, says this blogger.

American troops have become casualties of this rift between the White House and its military leaders

Are 40,000 troops really what Afghanistan needs? Can an increase in troops speed up success?

107 Responses to “On air: How many troops are needed in Afghanistan?”

  1. 1 Dennis Junior
    October 7, 2009 at 11:51

    Hi, WHYS…


    You guys are INCORRECT…Mark Mardell is now, The BBC North
    American Editor and no longer the Europe Editor for the Corporation…

    ~Dennis Junior~

  2. 2 patti in cape coral
    October 7, 2009 at 12:56

    I don’t know, will an increase in troops make the war be done faster? How much faster?

    • 3 Tom K in Mpls
      October 7, 2009 at 20:47

      Most people agree that there is no simple equation regarding troops and time. Most agree we either leave them to their fates or help them build. The question is, is it worth the unknown cost in dollars and lives to help them build stability.

  3. 4 VictorK
    October 7, 2009 at 13:27

    *Eh? What happened to the recent claims that the war was being won & the Talibs were in retreat? Tactical lies, then, by military & politicians? With untrustworthy trans-Atlantic politicans, democracy’s as broken in the US & UK as it is in Afghanistan.
    *In the absence of a coherent & credible Afghan strategy from the White House, or the plain truth about the war, how can we know what should happen next? The justification for the occupation changes every few months: nation-building; education for girls; infra-structure; maintaining the puppet regime; heroin; Al Quaeda; stopping the export of terrorism; the Taliban; aiding Pakistan…The only one missing is covering Western politicians’ backsides.
    *The UK govt is as much a puppet in all of this as the ‘re-elected’ Karzai. Wherever the Americans lead, Brown feels duty-bound to follow, if only as a loyal henchman. There’s no substantive British interest in Afgh. Our soldiers shouldn’t be there, let alone increasing their complement. Obama is proving to be sub-Presidential.

  4. 5 T
    October 7, 2009 at 13:36

    Many of the States’ creditors want to drop the dollar for a basket of other currencies. Which means Obama can no longer afford to stay in Afghanistan. We need to get out now.

  5. October 7, 2009 at 13:43

    Considering the fact that we are already involved in Afghanistan,to pull out now would be most welcomed by the enemy,and give them a chance,a good chance,to usurp Pakistan. The way to defeat an enemy,is to get in amongst them and that requires troops on the ground.

  6. 7 gary
    October 7, 2009 at 13:57

    I don’t know, and sad part is, I don’t think anyone else does either. I’m beginning to think maybe none at all would be best, or certainly OK. Yes, I certainly believe al qeada folks are hiding in the hills between there and Pakistan, and I believe they will make as much mischief as they are able. However, I also believe stopping terror is better and more easily accomplished closer to its target. I’m very honestly not all that worried about “profiling” or anything else that irritates, but does not physically injure people. Real life is not as neat I might wish it to be. Not everyone’s’ shoeshine can be protected. As for the Taliban, I just do not care what forms of governance the Afghanis choose or have chosen on their behalfs. I don’t feel it’s some US kids’ job, or anyone’s child who isn’t Afghani, to adjust these folks’ political realities.

  7. 8 Nigel
    October 7, 2009 at 14:05

    There is no correct number of troops in the Afghan conflict because it is not a military war and will not be won measured by conventional military metrics. The Afghan’s wish to be free of occupation and to chart their own future will live longer that the West’s ability to sustain such a war.

  8. 9 Robert Evans
    October 7, 2009 at 14:26

    I think Gordon Brown should give the British Army all the resources which it needs and so be it if it costs a couple of billion pounds as the army needs it so they should get it. If they need more men which is what I keep hearing reports about then we should send them. Although it would be very useful if the Germans would take away their restrictions on their own forces because we are massively over stretched at the moment.

    I would call on the world to work together to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan and then the Afghans will be able to start to rebuild their own countries after years of war and terrorism.

  9. 10 scmehta
    October 7, 2009 at 14:29

    It is for the commanders to decide; the number of additional troops may vary according to the ground realities. If you want to win a war, more importantly an ideological war, you just cannot afford to sit back and debate/bargain on the numbers; you have to listen to the commander-in-chief.

  10. 11 Roy, Washington DC
    October 7, 2009 at 14:30

    We made the mess, so it’s our responsibility to clean it up. If this means we will have to send more troops, then that’s what it is going to have to mean. The alternative is to let Afghanistan descend into an even more chaotic situation than it is in now; I shouldn’t need to explain why this would be a bad idea.

  11. 12 faysal
    October 7, 2009 at 14:34

    for what??to kill??to be killed??to distruct and demolish??to build a country??to teach ignorant people??to fight Islam??to found up hospitals and schools??to show the entire world they are there to spread dmocracy??…I’ll answer the question when my questions are ANSWERED

  12. October 7, 2009 at 14:37

    We have no business in Afghanistan and the MIddle East. Withdraw troops now.

  13. 14 Ros Atkins
    October 7, 2009 at 14:59

    Hi Faysal – I think the goal of US and NATO involvement in Afghanistan is to prevent it being a country where al-Qaeda can easily operate. Part of this is to establish democracy as opposed to Taliban rule. Bearing that in mind, back to the question…

  14. 15 Nigel
    October 7, 2009 at 15:11

    Hi Ros – Don’t think that democracy will prevent al-Qaeda from operating in Afghanistan or anywhere else as long as they feel that they have something to fight for. Unfortunately the US and NATO involvement in Afghanistan and other “Muslim lands” currently provides their raison d’être. C’est la guerre I’m afraid.

  15. 16 Dan
    October 7, 2009 at 15:20

    I am a hawk but we are fighting and dying in Afghanistan for people that want to live a 7th century lifestyle governed by a fully corrupt leader.
    What the hell are we doing? There is no strategic American interst there.
    Cut a deal with the Taliban. Hand over bin-Laden, al-Zawahiri & Mullah Omar, withdraw from Pakistan and we will leave Afghanistan but contribute money to help the Taliban rebuild the infrastructure.
    Obama could put in 3 Million troops and still he will lose.
    The real play is to work to bring Pakistan into the 21st century, ease the tension with India and settle Kashmir to India’s favor.

  16. October 7, 2009 at 15:22

    History makes me nervous, both for our soldiers and the outcome of further commitment in Afghanistan… remember the US in Vietnam… remember the Russians in Afghanistan… remember that in all of their history the Afghans have never been conquered by outsiders. If it were not for what the Taliban represent to Pakistan and all of central Asia and beyond (and the Al-Quaida and Taliban connections), I would bow to history and add the efforts in Afghanistan to the rest of George Bush’s failures. However, this is not a time when we can ignore a local group’s brutality, since with today’s technology, these people can spread their violence to every part of the world as their mindset has already demonstrated. I applaud President Obama taking time to weigh the options… the US response will not be a knee-jerk reaction, but a thoughtful and full commitment. And we will try to defuse the Taliban, not as outsiders, but as partners toward a better life for every person everywhere. Prognosis? Crossed fingers, a lot of will, and prayers… even by those who don’t usually pray.

  17. 18 Crispo, Uganda
    October 7, 2009 at 15:26

    Well, its said when you begin a task you ought to complete it. What’s happening with the US? A bad day in the field? By the way Ros, do you believe its democracy in the centre stage? So, who told America that democracy is only to be found in the US? Is America a paragon of decency as far as democracy is concerned? Ask the guests if, they think America is leading by example; we’ve heard of violation of human rights, moreover grave ones by the US, so why pretend to be doing a just cause? Well, since they decided to go there, let them pay the libation of blood necessary.

    I’d love to come as a guest in one of these shows and give my opinion of these contagious issues.

  18. 19 subra
    October 7, 2009 at 15:28

    the Taliban are a menace to world peace with their brand or terrorism. They should be destroyed wherever they are with additional troops.

  19. 20 Mike in Seattle
    October 7, 2009 at 15:31

    As much as I want to get out of our middle east wars and start spending the money on healthcare and other peaceful endeavors, if we’re going to stay, we must go all out.

    A coworker of mine compared this to the use of antibiotic drugs. You have to overpower the infection right away or it comes back stronger than before. I would mandate an exit strategy however, otherwise we’ll never leave. This doesn’t have to be strict dates – it could take the form of precise goals to accomplish.

    When will this end? I’m so tired and frustrated seeing the constant deaths and maiming of both body and mind and there seems to be no end.

  20. 21 VictorK
    October 7, 2009 at 15:32

    *Patrick Buchanan addresses the question
    *The US administration is hopelessly divided on the answer. Generals speaking out of turn; McChrystal vs Biden vs Mrs Clinton vs Obama vs McChrystal; the Nat Security Adviser taking one view, the Sec. of State another; the Defence Sec. undecided…A situation like this calls for decisive leadership; instead we have Obama.
    *Washington seems paralysed. Buchanan’s prediction of a spineless compromise by Obama (more troops, but not as many as the military want) sounds like the most likely outcome.
    *Since Al Quaeda have the capacity to operate from any Muslim country (and perhaps some non-Muslim ones, like the UK), does that mean that the US & NATO have a self-given mandate to attack any state with a real or manufactured Al Quaeda threat? Who are the aggressors & the threat to world peace & security here?

  21. 22 steve
    October 7, 2009 at 15:36

    @ Roy

    We didn’t make the “mess”. Afghanistan was already a mess, and it was run by terrorists who trained the 9/11 terrorists. These “wonderful” people also prevented women from being educated and blew up bhudda statues that were historic landisights because they cannot tolerate any other religion.

    • 23 Tom K in Mpls
      October 7, 2009 at 20:07

      steve, we did make the mess. The Taliban was small and ineffectual in every way. They had no real focus or local support until the CIA gave it to them. It was done to drive the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan. For a reasonably accurate and entertaining account, watch the movie ‘Charlie Wilson’s War’. It was publicly acknowledged by Rep. Charles Wilson.

  22. 24 Roberto
    October 7, 2009 at 15:36

    RE “” How many troops are needed in Afghanistan?’ “”

    ————— The short answer is twice as many as were provided under the previous administration.

    The proper question should be how can the us led NATO coalition SALVAGE the previous administration’s botched mission?

    Unfortunately the answer and response to be muddled by the politics of democracies fighting for survival which is what got them to this failed state of foreign affairs to begin with.

    I’d bet on Afghanistan existing 100 yrs into the future much as today, but I am no longer confident in the fate of the democratic state.

  23. 25 Count Iblis
    October 7, 2009 at 15:37

    The Taliban are simply exploiting the fact that the law and order infrastucture in Afghanstan is very poor. If we send enough soldiers in Afghanistan, we won’t need to fight there at all. The mere presense of soldiers in all of the remote village in Afghanstan at the same time will force the Taliban to melt away in the population. Then, we can start building up the security infrastructure straight away.

    I think we need about a million people (not all of them soldiers) for a period of about two years. There will hardly be any fighting at all. When we leave after two years, the Taliban can no longer intimidate the local popultion. Their infuence will be limited according to the popular support they have.

  24. 26 Russell
    October 7, 2009 at 15:40

    I don’t think that we can effectively combat an idealogical threat with military presence. I would rather see the United States seek solutions through other avenues. I agree that the Afghan State needs to be strong and credible before any other challenges can be overcome; but lending them military aid is too conspicuous and it risks the appearance of undermining the Afghan State. Effectively defeating the purpose of lending aid in the first place.

  25. 27 John in Salem
    October 7, 2009 at 15:42

    Yes, I know the history. I also know that we have a specific goal – the elimination of a group who have sworn to acquire a nuclear weapon and immediately use it on us. If I woke up tomorrow to find that New York or London had vanished along with several million people I know that the response by the West would be on that order of magnitude and that we would be willing to sacrifice 10,000 or more to keep it from happening again.
    I hate war, but it’s a virtual certainty that if we don’t do it now we’ll have to do it later – and at a much higher cost.

  26. 28 Steve/Oregon
    October 7, 2009 at 15:50

    Though it may be too late because of the high lvl of troops that where needed to sustain Iraq. We should commit atleast the amount of troops we have in Iraq. Though there is no military solution. The majority of troops should be focused on building up the infrastructure. as for the cost of the war… Once Afghan gets on its feet they can pay us back. I would also utilize FBI and CIA assets to clear out the corruption in the Gov. from the top down.

  27. 29 Ibrahim in UK
    October 7, 2009 at 15:56

    I agree with Faysal and VictorK and I’ll add to the voices that have become confused by the ever-shifting goalposts in Afghanistan. The original mission was to go in, destroy Al-Qaeda and their hosts and stop them from coming back. Al-Qaeda still exists, the Taleban still exists, Afghanistan has a Kabul-only leader elected under suspicions of fraud, and the people of Afghanistan are rejecting the West and slowly moving back towards the Taleban. The mission is failing, but the politicians are covering up the failure and manufacturing success stories by creating new objectives for the war.
    Add to the mix the illegal and disastrous war on Iraq, the Abu Ghraib scandals, Bagram, Guantanamo, and the whole credibility of anything associated with the “War on Terror” comes crumbling down.
    Before wanting anything from NATO commanders (at best we would be armchair generals anyway), we want something from our own leaders: truth and accountability.

  28. 30 Anthony
    October 7, 2009 at 16:13

    Unfortunately, there is only 2 way to “win”. Have a draft and send a ton of more troops, or drop a nuke on them like in Japan. Extremist Islam is a cancer, which spreads and spreads, and we need to take this head on. The children look at their hero’s and dream of martyrdom, and are willing to die early on.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  29. 31 nora
    October 7, 2009 at 16:14

    Does anyone really have a clue? It seems we are guessing in the dark and hoping for the best while more people are killed. Why are troops the answer?

  30. 32 Dave in Florida
    October 7, 2009 at 16:33

    The only way to win a war is to go in with brute superior force and annihilate the enemy. It is quicker and with less damage and casualties. Unfortunately the western forces – especially the U.S. – will no longer fight wars/battles in order to win. It’s all politics, and Afghanistan is already a lost cause.

  31. 33 Steve/Oregon
    October 7, 2009 at 16:42

    Troops provide the stablity, needed to show the people of Afghan how life can be under without the taliban. Troops don’t only fight, they build schools, higher workers, build roads, power plants etc etc.

  32. 34 Craig
    October 7, 2009 at 16:48

    You send more troops, you build roads and rail, you provide schools, hospitals, electricity and water. And you let the Afghans control those things at a local level. Then you leave. Trying to turn the country into a puppet state cannot and will not work.

  33. 35 Reena Dasani
    October 7, 2009 at 16:52

    The US and the rest of the world promised Afghans that they and their children would have a brighter future, without the Taliban. How many troops wold it take to remove the Taliban yet again , rebuild infrastructure, remove corruption and educate the next generation to make Afghanistan into a productive country?

    The US do not have a clue as to how this part of the region operates, how on earth will they remove the Taliban and gain control when Pakistan is thwarting all efforts to do so ?

    There is no short term answer, more troops more time and more money is the only way, and no one is willing to do it.

  34. 36 Anthony
    October 7, 2009 at 16:59

    @ nora

    Because, Muslim Extremists hold a grudge like no other… they’ll NEVER let anything go, especially since they NEED a bad guy to hate and try to destroy. If we don’t take care of this now, the children over there will be hating and trying to kill our children, and our children’s children.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  35. October 7, 2009 at 17:25

    Hi! Rose.
    I support Afghan war to flush out the talibans. If possible troops be increased to finish this job. Talibans are threat not only to the Washington but also to the peace of the world. nairobi- KENYA

  36. October 7, 2009 at 17:29

    The war in Afghanistan can’t be won just through military operations. The troops should win the hearts and minds of the population. Without cooperation from the locals, the Talibans will always find an area where to hide and regroup considering the mountainous geogrpahy of the region, presumably, giving a safe heaven to dangerous Taliban figures, including Bin Laden and Al Zawahiri.

    No matter how many troops are there, they will find it difficult to eradicate the talibans if they are entrenched in the mind of a large section of the population, ready to die for a cause through suicide attacks or whatever.

  37. 39 saad
    October 7, 2009 at 17:34

    Well, just increasing the number of troops won’t solve the problem. Pakistan is having double standard. ISI and other secret agencies of Pakistan are allegedly supporting terrorism in Afghanistan. Here is the link regarding this.
    Pakistan army and ISI is giving sanctuaries to Talibans in Quetta, the place where America is planning drone attacks. The boarder around Afghanistan are completely insecure. ISI and Pakistan army is supporting infiltration of Talibans from tribal belt of Pakistan into Afghanistan. I don’t think only increasing the number of troops would be the solution of the Afghanistan’s problems or can counter insurgency in that part of the world.

  38. 40 Linda in Italy
    October 7, 2009 at 17:40

    A few months ago, this topic came up and I was inclined to support perseverance, more troops, and inevitably more sacrifice of people of all kinds, military and civilian. However since what has just passed for an election in that sorry land, I just don’t see how the West can support such a regime that is, in its own corrupt way, nearly as bad as the Taliban.
    The real issue now is Pakistan, a far more dangerous situation, and there must be some sort of global initiative to back up Pakistan with the support of Muslim countries, provided the West puts its hands up and admits its mistakes, pull out its armies and yes, even apologises.
    Pakistan, at least the present regime, would be prepared to accept help, on it own terms of course and given that that particular being undermined precisely by the Western presence on, and indeed at times across, its borders, this seems to be the most logical option – BUT not by employing an invasion force of any kind whatsoever.

  39. October 7, 2009 at 17:49

    A firm commitment is necessary from President Obama. Troop numbers have to be drastically increased. Procrastination is the thief of time. If he does not act immediately he could hand the initiative to the Taliban. President Obama needs to act decisively and increase troop levels immediately. The President needs to convince a sceptical nation as well as America’s allies that the Taleban fighters have to be annihilated now. The Afghans need to protected at all costs;

  40. 42 Venkat Gopal
    October 7, 2009 at 17:54

    I fully agree with President Obama’s Strategy First approach. Eight years later and thousands of lives lost, the taliban is stronger than ever, Al Qaeda is yet to be dismantled and more importantly, the US and the allies have failed miserably to contain and check Pakistan, the bane of all problems in that region.
    Once they have a startegy in place, there should be an ambush style attack from ground and air, similar to “Shock and Awe” in Iraq.


  41. 43 saad
    October 7, 2009 at 17:58

    Unless, Pakistan the country sharing boarder with Afghanistan, will keep supporting and hiding Talibans, Afghanistan can not get rid of Al-Qaeda and Taliban.President Hamid Karazi in the past have blamed Pakistan for several times for fueling insurgency in Afghanistan. America should not expand its tax payer money lavishly on Pakistan and its army which is supporting Taliban against America and its people. America need to put more pressure on Pakistan to avoid double standard on war on terrorism as it is well known fact Pakistan is sincere in defeating terrorism rather it use them for gaining political and economical support from america. Putting simply , increasing troops isn’t solution of problem.Pakistan fuels insurgency in Afghanistan , America should put more pressure on Pakistan to avoid fueling insurgency in Afghanistan and supporting Al-QAEDA and Taliban.

  42. October 7, 2009 at 17:59

    No more U.S. troops should be deployed to Afghanistan. Obama has already bumped up the total, by 21,000, to a grand total of 68,000. It’s time to start looking for an exit strategy to this 8-year-long fiasco. The insurgency can be defused by planning a departure of U.S. troops. But at the same time, some forces should remain to fight al-queda, and continue to hunt down Bin Laden.

    • 45 Tom K in Mpls
      October 7, 2009 at 22:46

      We are fighting Al-Queda. You need to think of Al-Queda in a poison gas analogy. When it gathers in one area, it can be deadly. Anything can scatter it. But it doesn’t go away. The Taliban of Afghanistan gave support to Al-Queda because they both are militant Islamic fundamentalists. Both feel it is their duty to kill those that either will not join them or that are not ‘believers’. In effect, they are the same thing. To verify this, look at the agreement the Taliban reneged on in the Swat valley regarding sharia law.

      We can deal with them now or later. Just ask Pakistan about this. Money will be spent and people will die either way.

  43. 46 Elina
    October 7, 2009 at 18:04

    Military power might be needed to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan. However, the war on terrorism can never be won by military force.

  44. 47 Kalai in San Francisco
    October 7, 2009 at 18:07

    May be I am just naive, but why can’t we just make our ‘borders’ ultra secure and invest money on security in the U.S. than sending more and more troops to Afghanistan and other countries? Recently, Zazi (an US legal resident from Afghanistan) was trying to blow up something – the point here is he was not trying to do something outside the country, he was IN the U.S. How much ever money we spend on this war, we cannot (or not entitled) to ‘cleanse’ Afghanistan.

  45. 48 Lew in Ohio
    October 7, 2009 at 18:16

    Millions of troops. More and more experts are saying we should change the focus of af/pak as a regional problem for India. If we lose Af and disrupt the fragile pak then we could see central asia fall further to radical islam, al queda could get the nukes for free. So that being said, are we and our allies willing to go all in or are they going to continue to footy around? But the age old question is can we make a difference in such a land. Some believe so others no. I hope we havn’t lost our mustard due to Iraq. I get most of my info from Thoms PM Barnett and he mostly directs this line of thinking.

  46. 49 steve
    October 7, 2009 at 18:16

    Wow, your german guest, I have no doubt, mourns the demise of the DDR, so the listeners should take that into account when considering her opinion. Does she forget that communists were at war in Afghanistan and they didn’t have an issue with that one.

  47. October 7, 2009 at 18:17

    What worked in urban Iraq was physical separation and access control, namely walls. The physical separation and protection of large populations within walls contributes majorly to stability. The benefits within the walls –security, an economy, education, government– will become obvious to those outside and change the context generally.

  48. 51 saad
    October 7, 2009 at 18:18

    You can not war in Afghanistan with out winning war against Taliban present in tribal belt in Pakistan. Pakistan military won’t do it. American military has to do it by its own. American military has to defeat Taliban present in Pakistan tribal belt.

  49. 52 Nate, Portland OR
    October 7, 2009 at 18:18

    I’m an American that wants us out of both Iraq and Afghanistan as soon as possible. Except to the extent that circumstances in either region affect our safety in the US, I’m no longer terribly concerned with what we leave behind. I’ve read of many people in Afghanistan that I can sympathize with and wish well (i.e. those who are not concerned with lining their own pockets with foreign aid, hoping to establish oppressive religious law, or thrilling to the thought of taking the jihad to America), but these decent folks seem to have no power at all. Not only are they powerless, but they seem to weigh every American/NATO mistake far more heavily than they weigh deliberate Taliban atrocities. We’re in a no-win situation.

    So are there any Afghans who will work with us that have enough power that we can partner with them to leave the place stable, safe and reasonably respectful of human rights? If not, lets just get out as fast as we safely can. I see nobody who qualifies. Certainly not Karzai!

  50. 53 Sean - California
    October 7, 2009 at 18:19

    The Taliban did not attack us on 911. I think it is dangerous to confuse the Taliban with Al Qaida and Afghanistan with Iraq.

    Many pundits are saying that “We have to do the job right” and “We need to repeat the success of the serge in Iraq” is very myopic and misguided. There are many differences between the two societies on the ground; from religious and sectarian constructs to topographical differences, to the inter-country regional politics.

    The time needs to be taken to proceed with a specific strategy for Afghanistan.

  51. 54 Ryan in Alberta (Canada)
    October 7, 2009 at 18:19

    There is no right or wrong answer. This world is made up of pacificts, non-pacificts and those in between. It’s like asking a Roman Catholic and an Atheist how many churchs there should be, it’s obvious that one or the other is going to be unhappy with the descision.

    The descision should be made with a specific goal in mind that can be achieved, just “getting rid of terrorism” is not measureable and should not be the target.

  52. 55 Charley in Portland, Oregon
    October 7, 2009 at 18:21

    The US needs to go “all in” or Afghanistan will certainly fall; if we do not force reforms within the corrupt Karzai regime.

    If Afghanistan falls, Pakistan may also fall, and then Al-Qaeda will have access to nuclear weapons.

  53. 56 David Chitwood
    October 7, 2009 at 18:21

    8 years, 2 presidents, 2 commanders, 1,446 Coalition Troops dead, $228+ Trillion Dollars = EPIC FAIL

  54. 57 Maccus Germanis
    October 7, 2009 at 18:22

    In review of Gen McCrystal report, he calls for additional troops to protect Afghans that are now subject to the coercion of Taliban violence. Wouldn’t the arming and training of Afghans be a more direct foil of this coercion? I realize that police and army are being trained, but think that citizen militias could with mininal training augment existing security.

  55. 58 Frederic J Feingold
    October 7, 2009 at 18:24

    You are discussing the symptoms. As long as the USA supports Zionism there will be no end to any of this. In the eyes of most of the world the struggle against Zionism today is the same as the Allies’ fight against the Nazis was in the 1940’s. Would we have backed down? Should they?

  56. 59 steve
    October 7, 2009 at 18:24

    Christine has no plan. She just has wishful thinking. We weren’t attacking Afghanistan prior to 2001, and look what happened. It became a nation ruled by religious fanatics who forbade women from getting an education. Are there any arguments not based in liberal self loathing?

  57. 60 paul bolton
    October 7, 2009 at 18:29

    Hi, the level of troops needed in Afganistan is as many are needed , no half measures , if we lose this war n’and make no mistake that is what it is ,,, the results will be catastfique , not only for the West , but for every country in the middle east and africa ,, if the Taliban are not roundly defeated , then America and the west in general can say goodbye to peace from terrorism,
    Afganistan is NOT Irak ,, Irak was Bushes personal goal, Afganistan is the thing had to do ,,
    One more thing, to lose now is to BETRAY not only the Afgan peaple but every soldier from every country who has died there ,

  58. 61 saad
    October 7, 2009 at 18:30

    @ Charley in Portland, Oregon
    The problem is not only corrupt government present in Kabul. The more dangerous is corrupt government present in Islamabad that is allegedly supporting Taliban and terrorism in Afghanistan.

  59. 62 Jeff Ray, in Boise, Idaho USA
    October 7, 2009 at 18:32

    What did your guest just say… send “140-thousand troops”? Hold them “accountable by death”? Haven’t the past eight years shown that “kill ’em all” attitude doesn’t work? We can’t shoot our way out of this. We must try new tactics based on the time-tested principles of counter-insurgency.
    I support sending more troops, but not with the kind of swagger that guest expressed. Please tell him thanks for furthering the stereotype of Americans as bullies and cowboys.

  60. 63 Theodore in Portland
    October 7, 2009 at 18:34

    Having troops in Afghanistan accomplishes nothing. You have a corrupt government made up of warlords and a drug addict army. Perhaps if we didn’t interfere in the Muslim world there wouldn’t be such a threat coming from there. Will we ever give up colonialism?

  61. 64 steve
    October 7, 2009 at 18:34

    To the person who said that the Taliban should be viewed as a partner in the hope for better life, anywhere. I have coca cola on my monitor now because of you.

  62. 65 Maccus Germanis
    October 7, 2009 at 18:35

    Zionism does not equal Nazism.
    I feign surprise that BBC mods that wouldn’t let us use a certian phrase for Polansky does now allow the offensive assertion of Frederic J Feingold.

  63. 66 Tom D Ford
    October 7, 2009 at 18:35

    Just exactly what are the specific “geo-strategic interests”?

    Is it about the long rumored Unocal pipeline?

    Tell us the darned truth and let us sort it out for ourselves.

  64. 67 Shannon in Ohio
    October 7, 2009 at 18:38

    Afgahnistan is a truly intractable situation. It will take at least a generation to build a physical infrastructure, introduce literacy, and improve the terrible situation for women, among other things. That sort of progress cannot happen without military might. I fear we will lose no matter what decision Obama and his counterparts in other countries make. What a mess.

  65. 68 steve
    October 7, 2009 at 18:39

    Message for liberals: The Taliban are insane religious fanatics. No hugs, no talking, will get them to moderate their views. They oppose everything you stand for, such as equality, homomsexual rights, etc. They would kill homosexuals. Why do you want to empathize with the Taliban or think they can be reasoned with?

  66. 69 Eric in France
    October 7, 2009 at 18:41

    Can we (the West) accept a non-democratic government as long as not a taliban one?

  67. 70 harold
    October 7, 2009 at 18:43

    It’s an arrogant , expensive fantasy that anyone can waltz in and shortly have their way in Afganistan . . in a society that has taken centuries to form . There is no winning in this . Unless we want to keep wasting money and blood we need to get out , and spend the next trillion dollars on beefing up security on our own shores , and maybe some on economic development instead of weapons . . Chasing terrorist groups all over the globe is a fool’s luxurious errand

  68. October 7, 2009 at 18:43

    We need 60,000 professional troops to assist in securing the villages, and do a first rate job interfaceing with the Afghan society.

    We also need to triple our efforts at AID projects to build a workable, educated society…..schools, roads, agriculture, forestry, water, sanitation projects.

    We also need to draft our state and federal prisons, have our elite military trainers form them into cordon and attack units to exploit, find, close with and destroy enemy base camps, cave and heavily infiltration routes from Pakistan into Afghanistan. These cordon and attack forces not to be used in villages or normal society areas of Afghanistan. They are to super saturate remote areas where American troops and nato troop have not gone.

    These troops be parachute trained and start at 500,000. and then keep dropping them in till the Taliban gets tired of facing so many so often.

    troop on the Oregon Coast

  69. 72 Kevin PE
    October 7, 2009 at 18:45

    The debate over whether to deploy additional troops as requested by General McCystal reminds me of a scene in a Vietnam movie where a field commander vents “them fools in Washington, trying to fight a war with one hand tied around their b***s. The truth however, is that it such a multi-layered dilemma it’s difficult to know where the answer lies. If the blog rules allow – I came across an informative article found here http://www.realclearworld.com/articles/2009/07/14/strategic_calculus_and_the_afghan_war_96923.html Personally I wouldn’t want another Vietnam type loss to haunt us.

  70. 73 saad
    October 7, 2009 at 18:47

    Non-democratic government is not problem. It is present in many parts of world including Pakistan. But the problem is that there is high probability of Taliban again taking over after leaving of foreign troops from Afghanistan.

  71. 74 steve
    October 7, 2009 at 18:47

    Afghan is a truly failed state. The best we can hope for is that they can’t harm anyone outside of Afghanistan. So building a giant wall, and not allowing anyone out would be the best thing, given how hopeless that nation is. If they want to kill each other, let them be free to do so. But short of killing them all off, nothing can be done.

  72. 75 Tom D Ford
    October 7, 2009 at 18:48

    What are the business interests? The economic interests?

    What business benefits from military dollars spent on arms and equipment? Carlyle group?

  73. 76 Matt
    October 7, 2009 at 18:51

    I beleive there needs a be a three pronged approach, they must curb the curruption in the governement on the local level, and they must provide the people of afghanistan with jobs, one good way to do this would be to hire more afghans for the military, I support sending more troops if only to train afghan security forces, for example the mentoring program i think is most likely effective, if for every western soldier 5 afghans were mentored it would greatly increase the amount of security forces on the ground and also at a better value for the dollar, by hireing afghans for the military it provides both security and jobs.

  74. 77 CJ McAuley
    October 7, 2009 at 18:52

    I believe the worst mistake George W. Bush made was to elevate both bin Laden& al Qaeda to mythical status after 9/11, thereby making them more than they are or even were. The lesson to be learned from the “success” of them on 9/11 should have been largely dealt with by increasing the security of airlines and ports. He then compounded that mistake by “taking his eye off the ball” by also going after Saddam! We will live with the mess W created for decades, at the least; because he never really tried to finish what he started in Afghanistan.

  75. 78 Henry
    October 7, 2009 at 18:57

    I think the issue is that the number of troops required to provide security in Afghanistan is much larger than Obama can reasonably commit. This is a clear example of the human bias to consistently underestimate the cost and time involved in completing large scale projects. Given the recession at home, rising unemployment and a growing threat from Iran I think it’s naive to think the US could ever send sufficient troops to provide the requisite security for the Afghan people.

  76. 79 saad
    October 7, 2009 at 18:59

    @Steve. Same is true for Pakistan as well. Pakistani are threat for world too. They are spreading terrorism around world, harming people outside Pakistan. The bombers of transatlantic bombing in London hail from Pakistan. Ajmal Kaseb one of the culprits of Mumbai incident hails from Pakistan too. Many terrorist responsible for 9/11 are no longer in Afghanistan, they are believed to be in Pakistan under the protection of Pakistan’s secret agencies.

  77. 80 bb
    October 7, 2009 at 19:05

    You irritate me no end. You ask whether more troops are needed in Afghanistan, yet you tacitly assume that those troops will be from the US. Why not from Britain? Why not from NATO or individual EU countries. How about Germany carrying the load for a change? (Lord forbid they should actually have to fight.) The US is always to blame. We do too much or too little, but apparently we never do precisely what you want. You are swooning before the economic might of China. When will you ask where they were in the natural disaster in Sumatra? You are so quick to criticize the US. What, pray tell, do you expect us to do? Why are we protecting Europe when all you do is hector us? You are turning me into an isolationist.

  78. 81 Dave in Florida
    October 7, 2009 at 19:06

    “Message for liberals: The Taliban are insane religious fanatics. No hugs, no talking, will get them to moderate their views. They oppose everything you stand for, such as equality, homomsexual rights, etc. They would kill homosexuals. Why do you want to empathize with the Taliban or think they can be reasoned with?”

    Sounds a lot like the American religious right.

  79. 82 Rhonda
    October 7, 2009 at 19:06

    The Taliban is a direct threat to education in Afghanistan. They have blown up, burned down schools where boys and girls attend. They murder student families and staff of schools where boys and girls attend. They have also used poison in wells to kill students and staff where boys and girls attend. It is understandable that the Afghans would like more money for education but there is still a direct threat to schools where boys and girls attend. They do need some type of security in place to discourage Taliban attacks on schools.

  80. 83 DEV
    October 7, 2009 at 19:09

    Let us utilize our technology, send troops and engineers over there, to build bunkers in each civilization. These bunkers will be manned by a local Afgans and troops. The Bunker would contain supplies, communications, Afgan face recognition. If trouble arises an alarm set off by an Afgan defender alerts a drone plane to survey and attack intruders. An airport built and maintained by the troops until Afgans can be trained to maintain the drone air base. A fortified Embassy established at the Airport. Create the idea of defence as a job of local Afgans.

  81. 84 steve
    October 7, 2009 at 19:18

    @ Dave

    Sorry, the religious right in the US doesn’t kill people for having affairs or for homosexual acts. Try again. Nor do they prevent women from getting educations. It’s abhorrent to the Taliban for women to even be able to read.

  82. 86 Tom K in Mpls
    October 7, 2009 at 20:19

    We very simply have two choices, we either let the current local power ( the Taliban ) do what they like, or we suppress the Taliban until locals have the ability to resist them. We can not cover the whole country. We can establish a core and then with caution and reason expand the borders when the ‘interior’ is self supporting. No answer will save lives. But it is possible to let the locals establish the type of self governance they want.

  83. 87 Marty in Texas
    October 7, 2009 at 22:17

    I recently read “The Horse Soldiers–the true story of the first Americans in Afghanistan after 9/11. During the winter of 2001 and spring of 2002, a handful of Special Forces guys combined with the NJorthern Alliance, and destroyed the Taliban–until the Americans left for Iraq. Now General Dostum is offering to carry the fight to the Taliban, if we (America) will supply him with weapons and money. Why do we not seee or hear of any discussion of this offer? At least,it will save American lives, and there’s no better force that understands the Taliban mind-set, and hates it thoroughly.

    • 88 Tom K in Mpls
      October 8, 2009 at 21:48

      Your idea is a bit naive. You forget recent history. The CIA did pretty much the same thing to get the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan. That was how the Taliban got power. Your idea has a very good chance of creating a new ‘Taliban’. Helping a local government with a military to grow to stabilize the area is the action most likely to succeed. It will also cost more.

  84. 89 T
    October 8, 2009 at 00:32

    None are needed. What’s needed is for them to leave. If that’s not the right thing to do, then why did Gordon Brown refuse to send additional troops?

  85. 90 viola
    October 8, 2009 at 02:16

    Since I am not a military expert nor am I in Afghanistan and able to see with my own eyes what is happening, I believe it is better to believe what General McChrystal, who is a military expert and has been in Afghanistan, says is needed there. Yes. More troops are needed.

    Also needed is for Karzai to step up to the plate and stop the corruption of his government; otherwise he is going down. If NATO does not force him to step down or stop the corruption, then either the Afghan people as a whole or the Taleban will force him out. If he does what is right, he has a chance; otherwise he has none, nor do the corrupt minions of his government. They will all go down with him. When that happens, they should not have the gall to ask anyone to come to their aid.

    I would like to point out that one of the reasons given during the presidential campaign for why Obama would be a better commander-in-chief was that he recognized that had the U.S. and its allies poured the kind of effort into Afghanistan that went instead to Iraq that Afghanistan would now be a peaceful, non-taleban nation and alqueda would have been destroyed. So what say you, who made this assertion? Are you all just so penniless because of the recession that you no longer would support any military action to destroy America’s sworn enemies? Just wondering.

    • 91 Tom K in Mpls
      October 8, 2009 at 16:52

      You need to realize that Karzia is an ‘old school’ Afghan politician. He is very good at it. What he does is a combination of respect and what you and I call corruption. Given the lack of education, communications and banking. It is actually very reasonable.

      If you want to eliminate the ‘corruption’ aspect you need to apply the three point plan I have posted for Africa.

      1: Create a stable and accountable government to build #2.
      2: An infrastructure ( schools, roads, communications, electricity ) to support #3.
      3: A broad based economy.

      Each helps the other to grow, it is not a linear plan. It is working in several African countries.

  86. 92 Alex
    October 8, 2009 at 05:45

    Welcome to the “Afghan trap”.
    We saw the Soviet union end here. Why should we follow suit?
    We have no credible evidence of the whereabouts of Al-Queda leadership.
    So young Americans with guns are shooting villagers and mountain people. This only causes more intense dislike of American intent.
    What is the strategy? To sit in the hills with guns and expect Bin-Laden to walk by?

    Close down this military operation. Build schools, health care facilities and water-works in Afghanistan, or get out immediately.
    The guns perpetuate the wrong message, and using the military here is the wrong strategy.

  87. 93 Suiti Faavae
    October 8, 2009 at 10:24


    If it takes more troops to win the war, why not take that option. It is better to take that big risk now to destroy the enemy’s bases then to risk another 9/11 tragedy in the future. The cost of another 9/11 tragedy could be much more expensive or deadly than finishing the job right now. A job half done would come back and haunt the US and its allies in the future. Another superpower had lost in Afghanistan before (Russia), and the US cannot afford to loose this war it started.


  88. 94 Colin Sundaram
    October 8, 2009 at 13:07

    08. 10. 09

    If America wants to finish off the Taleban then more troops will be required as demanded by the top army generals who had analyzed and understood the complexity of the Afghan terrain and tribal life. In fact the war is not fought against an organized army of another country it is being fought against terrorists hiding in small numbers across one of the most difficult landmass. To search and flush them from their lair trained combatants need to be deployed all over the country makes sense. Bombing from thousands of feet above without hurting, maiming and killing civilians will not be possible because the Taleban are mixed among the general public. The Taleban does not have to camouflage or hide because they look the same as everyone else!

  89. 95 viola
    October 8, 2009 at 15:08

    In addition, Pakistan has now recognized the “snake” in their garden and are fighting the taleban in their country. If the U.S. does not prevent the taleban’s return to Afghanistan, Pakistan’s efforts will be for nothing and their soldiers will have died for nothing because then the taleban will be able to operate freely from Afghanistan into Pakistan, just as they now do from Pakistan into Afghanistan.

    Yes, troops need to be increased.

    United Nations aid agencies and other agencies that have corruption in their midst, just like the gov’t corruption, must clean house. Likewise, private contractors must be controlled.

  90. October 8, 2009 at 16:27

    Generic question is- Is the war is winnable?Answer is a resounding NO, based on historical facts where no foreign force has quelled insurgency in a foreign soil and rebuilt it.It is not a question of increasing troops, but the timing of leaving,removing the blinker that you can contain terrorism by friendly cooperation with a Govt( which represents whom, none knows) and at the same time fight the locals with out knowing who is not a terrorist.Sanest thing to leave NOW and tighten inland security and engage the world to to tighten theirs as well.

    • 97 paul bolton
      October 8, 2009 at 17:34

      The Brits had their problems in Aden , they lost because the politions lacked the backbone to continue when the bodybags started coming home, the Americans had the same problem in Viet Nam , now the politions have got us into another war , they are the first to throw the towel in,, we can not win by force alone, but the politicions will not talk without putting in conditions that will not be accepted by anyone on the Taliban side , negotiations have to be unconditional , Irak was regime change , Afganistan was the Taliban and Alquida,, but look at the government in power , not that much different from the ‘Government’ in Somalia, its there but useless,, in the meantime 40 nations are fighting a war not unlike Viet Nam in that we dont really know just who among the Afgan people is the enemy,,
      Paul ,, france

    • 98 JanB
      October 8, 2009 at 18:01

      Ramanan50, you should read some history books, in fact the majority of today’s nations contain regions that were once conquered, with subsequent insurgencies suppressed, and then rebuilt.

      What you meant to say was: “no force respecting the Geneva conventions and basic human rights has ever quelled an ideologically fueled insurgency, which employs suicide bombers, child soldiers and human shields, on a foreign soil that was surrounded by regions/nations allied to the insurgents.”

      • October 8, 2009 at 19:17

        True, most of today’s ‘Nations contain regions that were conquered’ BUT they were subsequently ruled by the conqueror , NOT left to the conquered nation .Are you going to take over Afghanistan?
        .’insurgents suppressed’ -true, but only those against the invading forces, NOT insurgents against their own country.
        This is the vital difference between what you quote and my contention.My limited knowledge history will bear testimony to this..
        Geneva Conventions-Still there?
        Ultimately it transpires you seem to agree the war is unwinnable..

  91. 100 Tom D Ford
    October 8, 2009 at 17:17

    Obama faces two problems in Afghanistan, the mess that Bush/Cheney and their Conservative Republicans left, and the history of the country defeating all invaders in the past.

    If he can come up with a decent solution to both, he will be regarded as one of the great leaders of history. If he fails, he is still among the great leaders who tried.

    There are lots of talking heads who say that Afghanistan is impossible, but I am the kind of guy who thinks of the alleged “impossible” as the best possible challenge.

    There is some solution to Afghanistan, I don’t pretend to know what it is but I think that Obama and his administration are well equipped to come up with something that at least comes close to it. Obama is not an ideologue like the Bush/Cheney group, he is a pragmatist and so is more likely to get things solved.

  92. 101 viola
    October 8, 2009 at 19:40

    A couple more points.

    NATO, including the U.S., needs to stop toadying to the propagandists who twist everything that happens in the war to portray those fighting against the taleban as unfeelingly killing innocent civilians. The result of such toadying has been the loss of support for the soldiers and the saddling of those soldiers with unrealistic, deadly to them rules of combat.

    Realize that the people of Pakistan do not want the taleban “snake” in their garden, and that the NATO allies in conjunction with Pakistan and with the will to do so can defeat the taleban and alqueda. The Pakistani troops are fighting bravely and taking great losses. The West must not throw away this opportunity to crush these sworn enemies. As far as I can make out, the Afghan people don’t want the return of the taleban or alqueda

  93. 102 viola
    October 8, 2009 at 19:51

    Tom K. The nation-building can only happen after the enemy is defeated. Karzai can clean up his government now. Ask the Afghan people if Karzai’s methods are reasonable. My guess is yes, if the persons asked are the ones on the receiving end of his old-fashioned respect and corruption. It works great as long as you have enough money to respect and corrupt everyone. Otherwise, it’s just an excuse to do whatever you have to to stay in power. He’s had at least 8 years to make it work. Did it?

    • 103 Tom K in Mpls
      October 8, 2009 at 22:09

      No, it hasn’t worked. Because we have been fighting a rather conventional war. Pure stupidity. I doubt, assuming it will work, that there will be anything you could really call progress for several years. We can not possibly crush the Taliban in any way. We can secure and hold areas though. These areas can develop in whatever way the locals want. When they are stable, they can be expanded. Along the way the Taliban will loose power.

      The Taliban are not a nation. They have no real roots. They are basically a recruited group. When the local people no longer see what the Taliban have as a better option, the Taliban will no longer be able to recruit enough to survive. This is the only way to stop them.

  94. 104 viola
    October 8, 2009 at 20:12

    Give the Afghans some credit and permit them to solve their own problems their own way with generous assistance because it is the right thing to do, unless it institutionalizes old-fashioned corruption. But remember the reason for being in Afghanistan in the first place is to deny alqueda sanctuary in a country ruled by the taleban. Taleban and alqueda interests have coincided in the past, are coinciding now, and will continue to coincide in the future.

    The whole world is fed up with both the taleban and alqueda trying to incite a “clash of civilizations” with no holds barred. They just attacked the Indian embassy in Kabul in an attempt to inflame further the Indian-Pakistan bad feelings. They must not be allowed to succeed in this.

    Just about everyone is also fed up with corrupt aid agencies which is another big problem that needs addressing in Afghanistan.

    • 105 Tom K in Mpls
      October 8, 2009 at 22:32

      viola, far more than not, we agree. The biggest differences is that you believe the two big problems, the Taliban and corruption, can be resolved by little more than saying it needs to be resolved. I see both issues as a cultural issue. It takes time to change a culture. Karzia is far from ideal. But he is stability at this time, and he is cooperative. Add to that, nobody has the right to force out the leader of another country. We can work with stability until something better comes along.

      As for the Taliban. You point out they are letting the world know who the trouble is. Yes they try to divide the world, but the world has pretty much caught on to this. The result is increasing unification on this point, or at least less recriminations. They can not grow unless we give them recruiting leverage. If we work with the locals, give them stability and growth, the Taliban will eventually wither.

  95. October 9, 2009 at 13:56

    How can American society tolerate 39,252 deaths associated with automobile collisions in 2005, or 438,000 smoking related deaths in 2008, both instances where we “killed ourselves,” and yet devote more resources and political energy to fighting terrorists, who have killed far fewer US citizens? There is a reason which reflects much about us.

  96. 107 logan clark
    October 9, 2009 at 16:55

    my name is Logan Clark and im am 19 and I want to say that i m willing to serve my county and its pepole to see that we can be free and all you have to say MR obma is that you need me and i will go but i will have to be drafted becuase of my legs they wont let me serve my county AND IM WILLING TO FIGHT FOR CITZENS OF MY NATION SO THEY CAN STAY SAFE FOR THIS I WOULD GIVE MY LIFE AND ITS TIME THAT EVREY ONE UNDERSTANDS THAT WE NEED MORE MEN TO WIN THE WAR. AND WE CAN WIN

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