Cover Story

The surge within

"The surge within" Continued...

Issue: "Warrior class," Aug. 28, 2010

"Afghan recruits will hear that you are not allowed to pray, that you have to convert to Christianity when they join the Army," said McGuffin. By having in the ranks chaplains, formally called "religious and cultural affairs officers," he said, "that message is countered."

The KMTC program also isn't shying away from former Islamic fighters known as mujahedeen. In one classroom 160 of them, all middle-age warriors (average age: 42) who at various times took on the Taliban and each other, sit together in wooden desks, learning army skills with supervision from eight French and Swiss military advisors.

The accelerated training buildup, in numbers and scope, begs the question: How lasting and successful will it be? "What we are doing," said Afghanistan expert Andrew Exum, "is buying time for Afghan political leaders to make political deals and build up their security forces, especially their intelligence, army, and police corps."

Exum, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security who served active duty in Afghanistan from 2002 to 2004, told me numbers aren't the best measure of success. "The army has to think in terms of competence of individuals and units-the core tasks that individuals perform and then the core tasks of a unit have to be examined in combat." Does a unit have a high or low desertion rate? Does it fire on the enemy rapidly and successfully? "I feel confident that by next summer, maybe by mid-winter, we will be able to evaluate for quality," he said.

Those evaluations, in fact, will drive the timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops. "The debate over U.S. policy in Afghanistan is a lot more narrow than we sometimes think," said Exum. "It is not about whether to stay in large numbers or withdraw. It's about how quickly we can transition to some sort of assistance mission." Exum believes political leaders, even in an election year, won't risk a sped-up withdrawal without having built up Afghanistan's security forces.

Col. Ferrari equates that buildup to the Marshall Plan following World War II. Gen. George Marshall's strategy to restructure and rebuild Europe "was a reaction to the post-hot-war environment but actually the beginning of the Cold War. Gen. Marshall felt we were about to lose the peace after winning the war. It's the same here."

A key difference is that Afghanistan's war is not a state-on-state struggle, but Ferrari insists that Marshall understood what the United States is just coming to grips with: "You can't kill your way to victory here. You have to build the capacity of the people and the government, because that's what will bring people over to side of the government and not the Taliban."

"You sound like an optimist," I said, sitting in Ferrari's cramped plywood paneled office at Camp Eggers. "Are you?"

"I'm a realist," said Ferrari, who's just been over the reports of the week's casualties: workers kidnapped and killed building a police training center in Wardak Province; Navy personnel kidnapped and killed south of Kabul; defense contractors shot on a firing range during training; and civilian contractors hit by gunfire just the previous night.

"Every day is hard. Every day is challenging. Everything we do is hard. This is an enemy that is fighting for its way of life, and until it is convinced that it cannot win it's going to be hard, and costly in terms of lost lives, and will go on longer than people think, and will be more violent than people think. There are a hundred ways it could go wrong, and in order for it to go right every one of those has to go right."

Surging itself

Afghan recruitment plus $11 billion a year in U.S. taxpayer funds aim to buy a new Afghan security force
Afghan National Army
August 2009:94,500 troops
August 2010:134,000 troops
By October 2011: 171,000 troops
Afghan National Police
August 2009:90,100 policemen
August 2010:108,000 policemen
By October 2011:134,000 policemen
Sources: Afghanistan Conflict Monitor, NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan
To hear Mindy Belz discuss this topic on the Knowing the Truth radio program, click here.

Forgotten war

10-15-99 UN Security Council creates al-Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Committee, imposing sanctions and linking the groups as terrorist entities.

9-9-01 Al-Qaeda operatives assassinate Ahmad Shah Massoud, commander of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. With Massoud gone, bin Laden is assured Taliban protection following 9/11.

9-11-01 Al-Qaeda operatives crash three planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon, while a fourth never reaches its target but crashes in Pennsylvania.

9-18-01 President George W. Bush signs a joint resolution authorizing the use of force against perpetrators of 9/11. It passed the Senate, 98-0, and House, 420-1.

10-4-01 NATO invokes Article 5-stating that an attack on one member nation is an attack on all-for the first time in its history.

10-7-01 Operation Enduring Freedom launches with a bombing campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

11-01 The Taliban begins to retreat as strongholds crumble, including Kabul, the capital, on Nov. 13.

12-5-01 Afghan factions sign the Bonn Agree­ment, installing Hamid Karzai as the interim administration head and creating a peacekeeping force (ISAF) for maintaining security in Kabul.

12-9-01 Taliban leader Mullah Omar flees as the Taliban surrenders control of Kandahar, its last stronghold. Later, Osama bin Laden escapes capture in Tora Bora.

4-17-02 Bush calls for reconstruction of Afghanistan, with Congress appropriating more than $38 billion.

6-20-02 Afghan delegates pick Karzai to head the country's transitional government.

5-01-03 Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld declares an end to major combat.

8-03 NATO takes control of international security forces.

1-04 Afghan delegates agree on a national constitution.

10-9-04 Voters pick Karzai as Afghanistan's first democratically elected leader.

9-18-05 Afghans, including women, vote for the Council of People, Council of Elders, and local councils in what's considered the most democratic elections held in the nation.

7-06 Violence resurges across Afghanistan sparked by weak government and lack of security forces.

8-22-08 Civilian casualties draw condemnation and spur an overhaul of U.S. air strike procedures.

2-17-09 President Barack Obama renews commitment to Afghanistan by announcing plans to send 17,000 more troops.

5-11-09 Gen. Stanley McChrystal replaces Gen. David McKiernan as top U.S. commander in Afghanistan.

7-09 U.S. Marines launch a major offensive in southern Afghanistan to counter growing insurgency.

11-09 August presidential election ends without a winner after Karzai failed to receive at least 51 percent of the vote. A week before the runoff his main rival pulls out of the race, leaving Karzai the victor amid corruption charges.

12-1-09 Obama announces a troop surge of 30,000 troops and sets July 2011 as a target to begin withdrawal.

6-23-10 Gen. David Petraeus replaces McChrystal after Rolling Stone magazine publishes controversial statements McChrystal and his aides made about the Obama administration.

7-31-10 Largest number of U.S. deaths in war, 66, recorded this month.
-compiled by Kristin Chapman

Mindy Belz
Mindy Belz

Mindy travels to the far corners of the globe as the editor of WORLD and lives with her family in the mountains of western North Carolina. Follow Mindy on Twitter @mcbelz.

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