Monday, August 10, 2009

Cordesman: up to nine additional brigades needed in Afghanistan (UPDATED)

Anthony Cordesman suggests that we need between three and nine additional brigades in Afghanistan. The London Times, reporting on an editorial that appears in its own pages, somehow figures that this could mean up to 45,000 new troops. (I usually base calculations on an estimated BCT size of 3,500; I'm not sure where this 5K-to-a-brigade is coming from.) Here's part of his list of what needs to be done to shift the tide of the war:

Second, to be effective, [ISAF] must eliminate as many national caveats and restrictions on troops as possible, and add a substantial number of additional US combat brigades. Experts differ, but this could mean anywhere from three to nine brigades above the 21,000 additional forces that President Obama approved in the spring of 2009.

Third, it must create a larger and more effective mix of Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). Many experts believe this means roughly doubling the targets from 134,000 men for the army to 240,000, and from 82,000 to 160,000 for the police by 2014. Equally important, member nations must provide the trainers, mentors and money to make this force effective. They must put them in the lead as soon as possible to show the Afghan people that security has an Afghan face, that it can last, and that every step is being taken to limit civilian casualties.

There's some other stuff about aid effectiveness and corruption, which is worth reading if only to say "who cares how much money Oxfam is spending on security when the Afghans are going to waste some significant chunk of what they DO get through corruption?"

Anyway, worth a look.

UPDATE: Today's Times includes a letter from Cordesman disputing the 45K number the paper assessed as his recommendation in the headline. I like to pretend like he was made aware of the whole deal by this post. Let me have my moment!

London Times

August 12, 2009

US Army Manpower

Afghanistan, military manpower, figures and speculation

Sir, You claim in a news story that my article for your Comment section (“More troops, fewer caveats. Let’s get serious”, Aug 10) called for 45,000 more US troops in Afghanistan, and you speculate whether I might be speaking for General McChrystal. As the disclaimer to my piece made clear, the views I expressed were completely my own. They in no sense reflect the views of General McChrystal.

Moreover, while I referred to a range of three to nine brigades, I deliberately did not make any estimate of manpower. There are many types of brigades and many ways they can be deployed. The lower end of the range in my article could easily amount to a quarter of the total you suggest.

Anthony H. Cordesman, Washington


  1. We're at 7 American BCTs now, and Cordesman is suggesting that we raise that to 10-16. At the upper end (by far the biggest number I've heard mentioned), that's as many BCTs as were in Iraq before the surge, and presumably there would have to be at least one or two division HQs and aviation brigades and all kinds of support units and things. Let's set aside what such an increase would do to the increase in dwell times that GEN Casey keeps promising (especially to IBCTs and SBCTs, unless we started sending HBCTs over there too). Would it even be possible to logistically support such a large (which sounds like it would be larger, in troop numbers, than the Soviet force was)? It seems like it's awfully hard to sustain even the current force, given how far supplies and equipment have to go to get there and where they have to pass through.

  2. Gulliver, that goes without saying...Where else would he have gotten it??