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Future operations in Afghanistan are offering a lot of indigestible options.The top numbers for a U.S. military buildup are less than the Army’s planning manuals call for. Yet even the smallest increment is not financially sustainable for more than a few years, says Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), a West Point contemporary of Gen. David Petraeus and Gen. Stanley McChrystal and an opponent of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the Iraqi surge of 2007.“There is a likelihood that [Afghanistan] could use additional combat forces,” Reed says. “I don’t know what number. If we had better intelligence of what is going on in [Pakistan], that also would help. Adding troops and maintaining a surrogate government by handing out money is not a solution.”Even a slimmed down U.S. force in Afghanistan is going to cost many billions of dollars just for the military component.“We need a policy and disposition that is sustainable. I think the level of forces now, which might be increasing, can’t be sustained indefinitely,” Reed says. “We’re talking about a few years. For the long term, U.S. presence will be there, but it will not be in the form of maneuver forces.”If not combat forces, what will make a difference in Afghanistan?“If we pursue population protection, we have to open up large areas of country where we won’t have a presence,” he says. “To be able to go into those areas and identify and take out the Taliban, you need additional ISR platforms. All those assets were taken out of Afghanistan in 2003 and sent to Iraq. Now we’re trying to put them back in.”But manned and unmanned, strike and ISR aircraft may also be in jeopardy.“I think the overall economy is suffering so much that a lot of our efforts have to be directed toward economic recovery here in the U.S.,” Reed says. “Then, when we start seeing growth and falling unemployment, we’ll then have to turn our attention to deficit reduction because of economic conditions world wide. As you look ahead, there is a domestic crisis that’s requiring unexpected resources. The bottom line is significant pressure on the defense budget. The likely path [for military savings] is a reduction in [technology] upgrades. It comes down to platforms. You stretch them out, buy fewer and cancel some.”
ar99, Reed, Afghanistan, troops, Pakistan, Taliban
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