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So why are there so many troops in Afghanistan again?

Posted by Newshoggers.com on February 10th, 2011

From our partners at Newshoggers.com

By Steve Hynd

Press secretary Robert Gibbs has no idea.

  Q    Secretary Napolitano testified this morning in front of the House committee and said in no uncertain terms that al-Awlaki in Yemen is the clearest threat — terrorist threat to the United States and a bigger threat than Osama bin Laden or anything coming out of Afghanistan or Pakistan.  Are we pursuing a new policy in terms of Yemen?  Does this alter our Afghanistan policy?  If this — if the number one threat to the United States is now Yemen, the question that a lot of Americans may ask is then why is there so many troops in Afghanistan?

     MR. GIBBS:  Well, let’s understand that one of the reasons why — as you heard the President say in the State of the Union, one of the reasons why the breadth of the type of attack that we saw September 11th of 2001, why that is harder to take place today is because of the fact that in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, the leadership of al Qaeda is under the greatest pressure that it has seen since September 11th. 

     Look, we came in and — to be honest, as we had said during the campaign, we did not think the central front for al Qaeda was in Iraq, that we believed it was in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  And we shifted our resources accordingly.  Obviously –

     Q    Well, now you guys are saying it’s in Yemen.  Does that mean we shift our resources again?

     MR. GIBBS:  Well, no, no — and I can assure you our cooperation with and our relationship with the government of Yemen is incredibly important in addressing the counterterrorism threat that exists there.

     I think it’s clear that in the past 10 years, as we come up to the anniversary of September 11, 2001, that the threat has evolved, as our response, too, has evolved.  We put greater pressure on Afghanistan and Pakistan — Al Qaeda leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and we have increased our cooperation with counterterrorism exercises with the government of Yemen.

It's certainly not because we're reducing the Taliban threat.

The strength of Taliban insurgents and other anti-government elements estimated to be between 25,000 to 35,000 in the militancy-hit Afghanistan, Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Zahir Azimi said on Wednesday.

And, from last month:

A massive effort by US and NATO forces — including offensives in the insurgent heartland and targeted assassinations of rebel leaders — has failed to dent Taliban numerical strength over the past year, according to military and diplomatic officials.

A NATO official said this week that the alliance estimates the current number of insurgent fighters at up to 25,000, confirming figures provided earlier by several military officers and diplomats.

Joshua Foust writes:

There are no comfortable conclusions to draw from this. Either:

  • We have no idea who’s out there, or in what numbers;
  • The Afghan MOD is lying to justify its expensive troop subsidies;
  • An enormous, expensive build-up in troops has not noticeably diminished the numbers of Taliban (or, in a worst case scenario, created 10,000 more);
  • There was initial success in diminishing the Taliban, but their numbers have grown; or
  • The Taliban are recruiting new people far more quickly than we can reconcile or kill off.

Not a single one of these conclusions bodes well for the war’s prospects.

Gibbs can't really explain why fighting a war in Afghanistan against an ever-regenerating foe has any effect on the AQ leadership in Pakistan, let alone why it helps against what is assessed as the greatest current threat from AQAP. I doubt any other official or general would do a better job. So can we call it a quagmire now?

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to “So why are there so many troops in Afghanistan again?”

  1. stuartbramhall says:

    The problem is that the American public isn't being told the truth about the real (strategic) reasons for the US war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They are told nothing about Pentagon and CIA support for the Baloch separatist movement – nor the longstanding Pentagon/CIA desire to see energy and mineral rich Balochistan secede from Pakistan to become a US client state – just like energy and mineral rich Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and the other former Soviet republics. They are totally unaware that the CIA is training young Baloch separatists in bomb making and other terrorist activities – with the goal of disrupting operations at the Chinese-built Gwadar Port (and the energy transit route for Iranian oil and natural gas destined for China).

    I blog about this at http://stuartbramhall.aegautho.../
    With a recent map of Free Balochistan (from their website).

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