Broke Afghans Will Cut Their Military — and Obama’s War Plan
First the U.S. and its allies super-sized Afghanistan’s Army and police to fight the Taliban. Then they decided that those Afghan troops were their exit strategy. Now they’ve got sticker shock for how much the huge Afghan security sector will cost after they turn over combat duties in 2014 — so the Afghans announced that they’ll cut their own forces, even while they’ll be the only ones fighting the insurgency.
This is nothing short of removing a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s entire Afghanistan strategy. It’s an unforced error, costing over $10 billion, and completely foreseeable. In fact, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld foresaw it.
Here’s the problem. Afghanistan is an economic ward of the international community: the World Bank estimated that before the explosion in U.S. financing during the surge, fully 47 percent of Afghanistan’s GDP came from foreign aid. The annual price tag for the Afghan National Army and Police, according to a former top officer in charge of training them, is $6 billion. You foot most of that bill.
That’s for 352,000 soldiers and cops — an “end-strength” that U.S. military officials have laboriously worked to reach. They will reach it, the Pentagon expects, by the summer. And soon afterward, the Afghans will start… downsizing. According to Abdul Rahim Wardak, the Afghan defense minister who’s visiting Washington, as a “conceptual model for planning purposes,” the Afghans will cut the force to 230,000 soldiers and cops after 2014. One-third of the Afghan forces — many of whom can’t read and kill Americans — will be gone.
If that sounds like deja vu, it should. As Pentagon chief, Donald Rumsfeld fretted that the Afghan security forces could break the bank. The largest those forces totaled under his tenure: 86,000 soldiers and police. While Rumsfeld spokesman Keith Urbahn later called Danger Room field marshall Noah Shachtman a “two-bit blogger” for citing a book claiming Rumsfeld kept the Afghan security sector small, Urbahn conceded “there were concerns about the sustainability of a large force in a relatively poor nation over the long-term — concerns that remain to this day.”