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Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Your two op-eds today ([Victor Sebestyen] Transcripts of Defeat & [Nicholas Kristof] More Schools, Not Troops, New York Times, October 29, 2009: A23) provide forceful counter-aguments to that of Max Boot a few days ago (Max Boot, There's No Substitute for Troops on the Ground, New York Times, October 22, 2009).

It is clear that we do not have the stomach to put the necessary force on the ground. With 110,000 troops, the Russians were unsuccessful in "pacifying" Afghanistan. Counter insurgency experts estimate that 390,000 troops would be required (that's the Petraeus doctrine, not mine) to be successful.

Even that may be too optimistic. There are 780 cities, towns and villages in Afghanistan. Max Boot tells us that to hold the town of Nawa took 1000 marines carrying out a clear and hold policy. To succeed in them all would require 780,000 troops

Do we and NATO have enough troops? Are we prepared for the kind of casualties that would be incurred? I think not.

The time has come to try the Kristoff strategy: saturate the land with schools: Cost effective, less dangerous, and with a long term payoff. If we go the escalation route, we need to be sure that we can win, before we commit more troops and we will probably have to commit many more than are presently contemplated.

Sent to New York Times

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