What We Still Don’t Know After the First Hearing Ends
The House Armed Services Committee hearing with Gen. McChrystal and Amb. Eikenberry is wrapping up. Two things that we still don’t know, exactly: first, which southern and eastern Afghan population centers will be protected by U.S. and allied forces and which won’t be; and secondly, the ultimate aspirational size of Afghan soldiers and police.
Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy told me yesterday that the Obama administration would evaluate what a realistic increase in Afghan forces would be year by year. McChrystal similarly did not state a hard total he was seeking to yield. Right now there are between 180,000 and 190,000 Afghan soldiers and police, and how fast they can expand depends on “how fast they recruit and we train.” By next fall, McChrystal expects to have 134,000 soldiers and just over 100,000 police. But they won’t reach “a combined number of 300,000″ until the summer of 2011. He did not, however, testify that there is still a military goal of getting to 400,000 Afghan security forces eventually.
In one hour, the general and the ambassador go before the Senate Armed Services Committee. [Sorry, long day. Already.]