Earlier versions of this article, including in the print edition of Thursday's Washington Post, misstated the rank of Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry when he retired from the U.S. Army. He was a three-star general.
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U.S. envoy resists troop increase, cites Karzai as problem
"They may or may not return," he said. "I don't think Afghanistan will notice it."
Eikenberry also has expressed frustration with the relative paucity of funds set aside for spending on development and reconstruction this year in Afghanistan, a country wrecked by three decades of war. Earlier this summer, he asked for $2.5 billion in nonmilitary spending for 2010, a 60 percent increase over what Obama had requested from Congress, but the request has languished even as the administration has debated spending billions of dollars on new troops.
The ambassador also has worried that sending tens of thousands of additional American troops would increase the Afghan government's dependence on U.S. support at a time when its own security forces should be taking on more responsibility for fighting. Before serving as the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Eikenberry was in charge of the Afghan army training program.
Each of the four options that were presented to Obama on Wednesday were accompanied by troop figures and the estimated annual costs of the additional deployments, roughly calculated as $1 billion per thousand troops. All would draw the United States deeper into the war at a time of economic hardship and rising fiscal concerns at home.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates have backed a major increase in U.S. forces to drive the Taliban from populated areas and provide Afghan security forces and the government the space to snuff out corruption and undertake development projects. They have argued that only a large-scale counterinsurgency effort can produce a strong Afghan government capable of preventing the country from once again become an al-Qaeda haven.
Those views have been balanced in internal deliberations by the hard skepticism of other Obama advisers, led by Vice President Biden. They have argued for a more narrow counterterrorism strategy that would not significantly expand the U.S. combat presence.
The most ambitious option Obama received Wednesday calls for 40,000 additional U.S. troops, as outlined by McChrystal in his stark assessment of the war filed in late August.
Military planners put the additional annual cost of McChrystal's recommendation at $33 billion, although White House officials say the number is probably closer to $50 billion. The extra troops would allow U.S. forces to attempt to take back and hold several Taliban havens in the southern and eastern regions of Afghanistan.
One compromise option put forward by the Pentagon, with the backing of Gates, would deploy an additional 30,000 to 35,000 U.S. troops -- fewer than McChrystal's optimal number to carry out his strategy -- and rely on NATO allies to make up the 5,000- to 10,000-troop difference. The third option, known by military planners as "the hybrid," would send 20,000 additional U.S. troops to shore up security in 10 to 12 major population areas. In the rest of the country, the military would adopt a counterterrorism strategy targeting forces allied with the Taliban and al-Qaeda, primarily in the north and east, with fighter jets, Predator drones and Special Operations troops that leave a light U.S. footprint on the ground. The military puts the annual cost of that option at $22 billion.
The most modest option calls for deploying an additional 10,000 to 15,000 troops. While under consideration at the White House, the proposal holds little merit for military planners because, after building bases to accommodate 10,000 or so additional soldiers and Marines, the marginal cost of adding troops beyond that figure would rise only slightly.