Monday, September 21, 2009

Afghanistan Can't Afford to Win

We hear a lot of talk about how if Afghanistan just had 400,000 military and security forces it could defend itself against the spreading insurgency.

Just 400,000, that's all. This is a country of between 28 and 33-million people with a life expectancy in the mid-40's with a literacy rate barely exceeding one in four. The country stands 219th in GDP at about $700 per capita. The government has revenues of about $890-million against expenditures of $2.7-billion. It already spends three times what it makes.

How in hell is a country so poor, so weak, so beset with so many problems, going to field - and pay - a 400,000-strong security force? Here's a hint - it's not. Afghanistan is never going to train, equip and deploy a force that size and, if it did, they would have to prey on the public just to survive. Sort of like what they're already doing on a lesser scale.

The only way that could work is if we treated these forces as surrogates for Western troops, if we paid for their training, equipment and deployment. Of course that might give rise to a military command that sees itself as independent of the central government in Kabul and history shows that doesn't always work out too well. Maybe in Afghanistan though a coup would be a real plus.

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