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CNAS’ Nagl (Mostly) Backs Levin on Afghan Troop Surge

The president of the Obama administration’s shadow Pentagon lends support to Sen. Carl Levin’s (D-Mich.) proposal this morning to bolster the Afghan security forces instead of ordering a second U.S. troop deployment to Afghanistan this year. While John Nagl, president of the Center for a New American Security, said the Afghan troops/U.S. troops dynamic isn’t necessarily “zero-sum,” Nagl said it made more sense to emphasize training additional Afghan forces to secure Afghanistan.

“I’m not sure it’s a zero-sum game, but if we have to choose between more Americans conducting counterinsurgency directly and more Americans training Afghans to conduct COIN, I lean toward the latter,” Nagl emailed. Nagl, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and premier counterinsurgency theorist-practitioner, has long advocated making the training, advising and mentoring of foreign partner militaries a core U.S. Army competency.

“The ultimate objective of American policy in Afghanistan is to leave behind an Afghan government and security forces that prevent the country from ever again being used as a safe haven for terror,” Nagl said. “Larger, more capable Afghan security forces are the long pole in that strategy; providing more trainers and advisers, more equipment, and more and better trained Afghan soldiers to defend the country should be among our top national priorities there.”

Without reading too much into it — and, again, check out Nagl’s non-zero caveat — Nagl’s statement may reflect the unease in Washington surrounding an additional troop increase.

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