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NATO's 'New Troops'

Friday, Dec. 4, 2009

As I suggested, the fact that President Barack Obama stated in his West Point address that he was "confident" additional forces would be forthcoming from NATO allies was a tip-off that assurances had been made. Still, there's a reason why the NY Times calls them "new troops," even if you had to read the WSJ's report to understand why: About half of the pledged troops are already in Afghanistan, as part of last spring's Afghan election surge, and simply won't be withdrawn as scheduled.

There's also something else that the Times didn't bother to mention, and the Journal glossed over, but seems pretty significant. As far as I can tell, Britain, Italy, Poland, and South Korea will send battalion-size new deployments. But according to the WSJ, Georgia will send an army brigade, which for the Georgian army can be up to 3,300 strong.

In other words, NATO is coming up with closer to 2,000 new troops. That isn't nothing, but it sure isn't 7,000. South Korea's contribution is significant, too, given the circumstances of its previous withdrawal from Afghanistan.

But the rest of the troops mentioned are either already deployed, or coming from a country whose desperate, loose cannon leader is pretty much discredited internationally. From a military perspective, Georgia's contribution is welcome news. But from apolitical perspective, it represents more that country's desperation tojoin NATO than a grand victory for Obama's new strategy.

Since at this point, the latter is as important as the former, something tells me we're in for an extended spell of this sort of massaging of the numbers.