Washington: August 8, 2008 -IR Summary/NYT - According to Senior Pentagon and Military official, a $20 billion plan to substantially increase the size of Afghanistan’s army will be implemented by Defense Secretary Robert M.Gates. This Plan is also likely to restructure the military command of American and NATO forces in response to the growing Taliban threat.
Taken together, the two decisions are an acknowledgment of shortcomings that continue to hinder NATO- and American-led operations in Afghanistan.
With the war in Iraq still an obstacle to any immediate American troop increase in Afghanistan, the plan was described by officials as an attempt to increase allied and Afghan capabilities in advance of deploying the additional American brigades that Mr. Gates and his commanders agree are necessary.
The additional American troops are unlikely to be available until next year.
Under a plan initially proposed by the Afghan government and now endorsed by Mr. Gates, the Afghan National Army will nearly double in size over the next five years, to more than 120,000 active-duty troops.
Such a large increase would not be possible without American funds, which will pay for trainers and for equipment, food and housing for Afghan forces. But Pentagon officials said that Mr. Gates would seek contributions from allies to help underwrite the $20 billion cost over five years.
In a closely related decision, Mr. Gates plans to reshape a command structure that has divided the NATO and American missions in Afghanistan, a system now viewed as unwieldy in the face of increasing insurgent violence, senior Pentagon and military officials said. Under an order expected to be signed by Mr. Gates before the end of August, Gen. David D. McKiernan, the four-star Army officer who leads the 45,000-member NATO force, would be given command of most of the 19,000 American troops who have operated separately. (The NATO force already includes about 15,000 other Americans.) Full