Mullen Concedes U.S. Will Hold Areas After Clearing Them, At Least At First
Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) wants to know: There are 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, partnered with 1,500 Afghan soldiers. Does that make sense, given that it’s the reverse of an aspirational ratio of three Afghan companies to one U.S. company?
Adm. Michael Mullen said that Levin’s numbers are “about right.” So, Levin continued, are we clearing and holding areas, basically by ourselves?
Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ answer: “There are more than just the army and police.” What does he mean? Local auxiliaries — basically, the Community Defense Initiative that some Afghan human-rights officials fear is a path to warlordism. “The capabilities of the [Afghans] will be rising, at a time when the capabilities of the Taliban will be degraded,” Gates said.
Mullen, pressed by Levin, conceded that there may be some cases where the United States has to hold areas after clearing them, at least until Afghan National Army capabilities rise. Mullen’s estimate: there will be 170,00 Afghan troops available by July 2011. Gates said the goal by December 2010 is 130,000 soldiers.