Levin: In Afghanistan, US should focus on training local forces
Sen. Carl Levin cited concerns about stress on the US military as the US decides its next steps in Afghanistan. Levin spoke at a Monitor breakfast Thursday.
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“The right strategy is the one that finishes the job by giving the Afghans the tools to take over,” Levin quoted Mr. Brown as saying. “I believe that is the right answer,” said Levin, adding that more combat troops reinforces the Afghan perception that the US is an occupying force.Skip to next paragraph
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There are currently about 170,000 Afghan national-security forces, consisting of police army and other units. Most military commanders, other experts, and US lawmakers agree the Afghan military must be much larger, and most think it needs to at least double in the next few years.
Trainers will make the difference, Levin said.
“[My] focus is to try to help the Afghans succeed by a much greater effort of training larger numbers ... of Afghans [faster] for their army and by focusing on equipping that army. We ought to have a plan in place for a real surge – not just of Afghans into their army, but a surge of equipment to that army,” he said at the breakfast.
The flawed elections held in August that put President Hamid Karzai ahead with a 55 percent return pose a problem for the Obama administration and could undermine a focus on building the Afghan army as Levin proposes. President Karzai’s government, widely viewed as corrupt, may not be able to handle a strong military trained and equipped by the US and allied trainers.
That military could, with time, wrest control from a weak central government, opening the door for a military dictatorship and an unreliable American partner.
That problem doesn’t necessarily go away under the counterinsurgency approach advocated by Obama’s flag officers. But in a counterinsurgency, creating security is as important as establishing local and central governance, using military and nonmilitary means to essentially build a nation.
Counterinsurgency proponents believe that such a strategy has a better chance of overcoming a weak Karzai government, but it would take years to complete.
Lawrence Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a think tank in Washington, believes that Afghanistan should be a priority over the war in Iraq. The Pentagon, he says, can lessen the stress on the military by accelerating the drawdown of forces from Iraq over the next year, freeing up forces for Afghanistan. “I would keep dwell time [time at home for troops] by taking down troops in Iraq faster,” he wrote in an e-mail during a visit to Iraq this week. “Troops should have at least 16 months between deployments, and I would give priority to it over Iraq.”
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