I hear a lot of people talking about how more troops are necessary because, until now, airstrikes have papered over the lack of boots on the ground and led to an uncomfortable increase in the civilian death toll, which is unsustainable. The first response to this is that 17,000 extra troops and personnel in a country the size of Texas isn't likely to change that, especially when the airstrike targets are often in inaccessible areas. The second is to look back at recent history. We "surged" in Iraq with an increase in forces and airstrikes surged, mainly to protect the new influx of boots on the ground, which American policymakers see as more precious resources than Afghans or Iraqis. It is not consistent to suggest that more troops=less airstrikes. That never happens. Escalation is escalation. [my em]
Though she left out an important one. The ability to resupply. You cannot keep up the tempo of operations if your troops ain't fed and they got no bullets or gasoline. It hasn't been a story here, but on CNN International (I wish we could get it in the States) I learned the Kyrgyzstan government is throwing us out of the base we have there. So now we're in negotiations with the Russians to use bases in Russia to stage in and out of. To an old Cold Warrior, this strikes me as unwise. Maybe I'm biased but experience tells me not to trust them with something this vital. At the least, they'll try to shake us down for every ruble they can. Why are we fretting about the Kyrgyz and Russian bases? Because our main supply line, through Pakistan, is vulnerable to attack and disruption.
So now we're putting more troops into a place where our supply line is tenuous. On one end, it's susceptible to destruction, on the other, we'll be wasting more money than we have to (for security and bribes), a lot more. Mr. Obama, take it from a couple old enlisted guys who've been around and who've learned the lessons of history. To quote Digby again, Aghanistan is:
... The Graveyard Of Empires
Once this new round of troops sets foot in the Hindu Kush, you own this war, Mr. Obama. Regardless of the neglect and contempt George Bush showed for it, anything that goes wrong over there now will be hung around your neck. I'm glad you're lowering expectations but you still own every casualty, every civilian and combat death from here on out. You'll be thinking about that as we make our exit in a similar fashion to the Soviets and the British.