"National security adviser James L. Jones told U.S. military commanders here last week that the Obama administration wants to hold troop levels here flat for now, and focus instead on carrying out the previously approved strategy of increased economic development, improved governance and participation by the Afghan military and civilians in the conflict."
"The day before in Kabul, Jones delivered the same message to Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the new overall commander in Afghanistan. McChrystal has undertaken a 60-day review designed to address all the issues in the war. In addition, Jones has told Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that they should focus on implementing the current strategy, completing the review and getting more Afghan forces involved in the fight before requesting additional U.S. troops for Afghanistan.
The question of the force level for Afghanistan, however, is not settled and will probably be hotly debated over the next year. One senior military officer said privately that the United States would have to deploy a force of more than 100,000 to execute the counterinsurgency strategy of holding areas and towns after clearing out the Taliban insurgents. That is at least 32,000 more than the 68,000 currently authorized. " Woodward
Jones appears to be the "flavor of the week." He was on the "Newshour" a few nights ago for a major interview. Now he appears in this story by Woodward highlighting his role. Some of this "attention" is defensive and intended to fend off "log-rolling" by the usual people seeking to cause his departure from the NSC. He is suspected of insufficient devotion to Israel and so we have had stories planted here and there about a lack of warmth between him and the president, etc. This is a bit of a corrective.
At the same time, Jones (in Woodward's story) gives firm guidance to the military chain of command in the matter of Afghanistan. The message is clear. Afghanistan will be an "economy of force" theater of operations. McChrystal will not get a lot more troops than his 70,000 odd. He is to concentrate on disruption of groups actually hostile to the US. Obama (and Jones) do not want to reproduce Iraq/Vietnam in Afghanistan. The wondrous wonderfulness of Counterinsurgency (COIN) as a panacea appeals greatly to today's officers. Military officers are always looking to get promoted. They climb onto any "bandwagon" rolling in the right direction. Today the "bandwagon" has "COIN" painted on the side. Tomorrow? Who knows what fell beast of brooding is slouching toward the dawn of some new doctrinal "revolution." While McChrystal is occupied with this limited task, an emphasis will be placed on economic development under the aegis of an international consortium of donors. The theory is that properity will reduce the attractiveness of Islamic zealotry. Will it? Perhaps..
In any event, I think that the policy in Afghanistan reiterated by Jones is the wisest available. Will it be possible to resist the temptation to increase the size of the force there? Perhaps. The generals will make endless pleas for more people. They always do. pl