Under the Influence: The 100,000 Troop Question

Under the Influence: The 100,000 Troop Question

Will the White House approve even more troops for Afghanistan? As Gen. Stanley McChrystal reevaluates the war strategy, he has reportedly considered as many as 30,000 more, and he's making a strong case. So much that an interview with the Wall Street Journal resulted in a front page headline declaring the, "Taliban Now Winning."

But the troop numbers don't tell the whole story. Or, the story doesn't tell all the troop numbers. Almost all counts circulated these days consist of "boots on the ground" assessments. Only, as a single measure, boots on the ground is only a part of the whole picture. Despite the fact that the press, the Pentagon, Congress, and the White House talk about some 68,000 troops that will soon be in Afghanistan and another 130,000 currently in Iraq to be drawn down in the coming years, that kind of counting comes up short. About 100,000 short, actually.

The figures that make up the conventional wisdom about force level in the United States' two wars fail to incorporate regional deployments, which are considerable. And as the withdrawal gets underway in Iraq and a further escalation looks more and more like a possibility in Afghanistan, several questions remain unanswered about the real force posture abroad.

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