The Daily Telegraph reports that Britain is under American pressure to send an extra 100 troops to Afghanistan. How did it come to this?
I’m not judging the merits of the Afghan mission at this point. I’m just noting that this is a protracted, difficult discussion between the two leading powers in the Western alliance about a company of soldiers. One hundred troops. One company.
The Telegraph says the deployment would make a difference to the American ability to deploy troops elsewhere in the country and bolster U.S. commanders’ arguments with their own president about further reducing the American presence.
A hundred soldiers? I can see how the decision to send three regiments might signal serious allied commitment to a cause. But if it still matters, sending 100 soldiers should be a minor administrative decision not a major strategic issue.
Consider that in April 1940 in a failed attempt to rescue their Norwegian ally, the British put 3,500 men into a minor action at Namsos, despite having 200,000 in France and deployments worldwide, from the Caribbean to Burma and Hong Kong, in the midst of a major war. Yet such a deployment would strain the capacity of the far richer and more populous UK of 2016 in peacetime, with few other demands on its armed forces, and entirely exceed our own. How can we have let such a situation arise in a clearly turbulent world?
Look, the Afghan mission may have been misconceived from the beginning or badly executed. I don’t think so, except in the unrealistic expectations for transforming the country through military action rather than just removing a regime dangerous to us. But it may be time to withdraw. It may be impossible to prevent a Taliban resurgence. The major terrorist threat may be elsewhere now. Or showing weakness once committed might be perilous. All these things can be debated.
What it seems to me cannot be debated is that when the two most powerful nations in the Western alliance are having protracted high-level discussions over 100 soldiers, both our military establishments and our will are dangerously weak.
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