The Blog

Afghanistan Assessment

5:50 PM, Aug 14, 2009 • By FREDERICK W. KAGAN and KIMBERLY KAGAN
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We do not think that there is any problem with the process by which the assessment of the situation in Afghanistan and the identification of resources required by the new strategy is being conducted. We had initially been concerned-and had raised questions in an article on THE WEEKLY STANDARD Online-about administration statements that appeared to disjoin the situation assessment from the resource requirements. The current process, however, does make sense. General McChrystal has had three critical tasks since taking command (apart from the demanding job of running an ongoing war): assessing the situation, developing a new strategy, and determining what resources that strategy will require. The assessment and way forward was requested both by Secretary Gates and by the NATO secretary general and will be delivered to both. The question of what forces General McChrystal as an American commander requests from the American defense secretary and president is a separate issue. The separation of these two products is thus reasonable and appropriate as long as one follows the other very closely.

We strongly believe that a proper counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan will require more forces, although we do not know what General McChrystal will ask for. The Obama administration has not yet indicated whether or not it is willing to provide the forces needed-apart from the bizarre "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" moment of the National Security Advisor-but, then again, it has not yet received a request for forces as far as we know.

The most important thing to focus on is that we must commit sufficient force in a timely fashion to Afghanistan in support of General McChrystal's strategy in order to achieve decisive effect next year, and we must be willing to sustain the effort long enough to achieve success as defined by President Obama on March 27: "to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future." Achieving this goal will be difficult, but it is possible. And it is unquestionably necessary.