Should Obama order Afghan war troop surge? Troops say maybe not.
October was the deadliest month for US troops in the Afghan war. Troops say a surge could stall handing off operations to Afghans, but concerns about security remain.
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In this company, US soldiers say they don't need a surge. But they agree that with more boots on the ground, they would have the resources to extend their presence farther from the base into areas where the Taliban remain popular. Like combat units elsewhere, this one is stretched thin by the requirements of simply protecting their base. A surge "would make it easier because there would be more people to pull guard [duty] and the infantry can go out and do its job," says Pfc. Daniel Robbins of Iowa City, Iowa.Skip to next paragraph
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The company's missions include hunting the Taliban with Afghan security forces as well as building roads with local Afghan leaders.
Robbins says that when his unit is busy with operations it places stress on soldiers who alternate between guard duty and missions, leaving little time for rest.
If there was a surge, says Spc. Nick Armstrong of Chesapeake, Va., "then we could work more in terms of pushing out [into the countryside]." He adds that he can imagine the push happening either with more platoon-sized bases (about 40 to 60 soldiers) or increasing personnel levels on larger bases to allow for more patrols.
What role would Afghans play in surge?
One of the most important questions about a potential NATO surge is how local Afghan forces will factor into the equation. International forces have been working to put Afghans in the lead for most missions. While some Afghan units are highly competent, many others struggle to maintain even the most basic standards of a professional army.
An American troop surge could risk putting "a huge US face on everything," which would do little to bolster the reputation of Afghan security forces in the eyes of locals, says Lamois.
But US Marine Lt. Richard Allis of Princeton, N.J., who is part of an embedded training team working with a local Afghan Army unit, says increasing the size of each embedded team would help. Now, with only two other men on his team, for security reasons none of the marines are allowed to accompany the Afghan Army on missions unless they're part of a larger joint patrol with the US Army. "It would be nice to be a little more independent," he says.
The attitudes of Afghan security forces mirror those of their US counterparts, with most saying the current NATO troop level works. Though more would help, they say, success here does not depend on a surge.
But Afghan officers worry, though, about how they would fare if US troops were to withdraw.
"The Taliban is not scared of the Afghan Army or Afghan police because we don't have heavy weapons. But there's enough US soldiers here to make us safe," says Raheem Hamdard, an Afghan policeman.
For US soldiers though, there's little drama over the pending Obama troop-surge decision. Most soldiers say they're too busy.