More U.S. troops for Afghanistan

February 20, 2009

President Barack Obama is sending 17,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan to fight a growing insurgency, but will they make a difference?

America and its allies have far fewer boots on the ground in Afghanistan than Iraq, although the former is larger, more populous and features more challenging terrain.

As two former U.S. soldiers pointed out in Foreign Policy magazine, military strategists generally believe a successful counter-insurgency strategy requires 20-25 troops for every 1,000 civilians.

This “force ratio” was outlined by Rand Corp military analyst James Quinlivan in an influential study in the 1990s that has become one of the standard works on the subject.

Quinlivan’s paper drew on the British experience in Northern Ireland — as well as their 1950s anti-communist campaign in Malaya — and although the conflict is very different from Afghanistan a comparison of the size of forces is interesting.

At the height  of Northern Ireland’s “Troubles” in the early 1970s, the British Army had around 30,000 troops in the province of 1.6 million people.

There are currently around 68,000 western troops in Afghanistan, a country of 32 million people. Even including the proposed reinforcements and Afghan forces, the “force ratio” in Afghanistan is at best only around a third of what the British deployed in Northern Ireland.

Of course, a simple numbers comparison ignores the fact that Afghanistan’s terrain is much tougher, the fighting there is far more intense and that more than half of Northern Ireland’s population are Protestants who overwhelmingly support British rule.

And finally, despite the number of troops committed, the British Army did not defeat the IRA, struggling to bring security as the conflict dragged on for the three decades.

The role of the British military in Northern Ireland remains deeply controversial. A sympathetic assessment might bet that it “held the line”, preventing a descent into all-out civil war and doing enough to convince its foes that they, too, could not triumph by military means alone. That, in turn, persuaded local politicians there would have to be a negotiated settlement and, after a tortuous peace process, a deal was eventually struck.

Establishing the conditions for a political settlement including at least some of their enemies seems to be the goal of the United States and its allies have accepted is the best outcome on offer in Afghanistan. If so, they will hope it can be achieved faster that in Northern Ireland.


@ Ali & Hussain.

Aa gaye itni jaldi apni aukat pe! lol

“Islam is possibly only religion in the world that legalizes Slavery – FACT”
Historically, the major juristic schools of Islam traditionally accepted the institution of slavery.Muhammad and many of his companions bought, sold, freed, and captured slaves 1.html

Muhammad was not even an ideal man let alone a prophet. He killed innocent people, enslaved them and waged wars to quench his thirst of blood. In today’s world Muhammad would have spent whole of his life behind bars if not hanged.

Posted by chirkut | Report as abusive

@Rajeev said: “Your state hugs Taliban and you people take gleeful pride in terrorist actions”. Our thousands of soldiers are killed by Taliban- we are seeing suicidal massacres almost every day. Pakistanis will be the last to take pride on these acts. We are at war and loosing is no option.
-Posted by naughtypakistani

–Dear naughtypakistani: My complete message was:
“The killer (of Gandhiji) was Hindu fundamentalist for sure–agreed, it is real sad. We will call a spade a spade. Here lies the difference between India and Pakistan. Pakistani state and majority of you (NOT ALL) will not do so. Your state hugs Taliban and you people take gleeful pride in terrorist actions. Stop this and peace will return.

So I already said “NOT ALL” Pakistanis to exclude sane people like you. BTW, several Indians have condemned clearly and strongly the killings of innocents (in Pakistan or India by Muslim terrorists or Hindu radicalists), it is so sad that you do not see that sort of thing from Pakistani bloggers. At one time I had to explicitly express this concern and only one Pakistani (Saf) said he does condemn all killings. No one else did that. You already see the religious intolerance- they are so quick to respond to that though. Shame on these people and their short-sightedness for the legacy they are leaving for their next generation. There is selective dislike for militants on Af-Pak border who kill innocents in Pakistan but not for LeT and other such hyphentated terrorist gps operating killing Indians in Kashmir and the rest of India. I was glad to see aother Pakistani blogger condemning killings of innocents in India (that is not same as condemning LeT etc) by a blogger and sadly that also came with some ifs and buts. Now this blogger happens to be the same one who once said “Long live LeT”. You are a Pakistani it is natural for you to feel hurt but that’s the truth.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

Is the moderator sleeping ??
Mr. Moderator allow me to wake you up from slumber, because if you have chosen to moderate then makse sure people who post senseless venomess messages are kicked out and I am talking with reference to Ali, Hussain and few other blogers from Pakistan.

Posted by Ashok | Report as abusive

Dear Finger Pointers
Those who point fingers at others are simply trying to divert attention away from the darkness they hide inside.
My friends in pakistan when u write stuff like u have written and typically ‘lol’ follows what u write, it goes on to show level of your maturity. In your laughters i hear sounds of nervousness and false smile as you are increasingly getting afraid of the “azgar” you all have created, who is now getting ready to swallow Islamabad after swallowing SWAT. All the best you dont have much time.

Posted by Omniscient | Report as abusive

It must be very clear to everyone by now how Pakistan is struggling. the fact is made clear especially by my Pakistani friends as they cannot have a conversation without using absurd language. This is the difference between India’s growth and Pakistan’s downfall.

All through the history of Pakistan (only 61 Yrs) they have been used by various nations for their benefits. By the Iranians in the early years of independence, by the Americans from 60s onwards till recently and Talibans and China now. How can Pakistan do this to itself? Can the pakis pls answer…..

Posted by Tushar | Report as abusive

You have hit the nail on the head. With this so-called peace deal Pakistan will struggle more especially in Swat. I have read American articles (NY Times) of Swatis working in the USA who are visiting families in Swat, being kidnapped for large ransoms. Even Swatis living in USA are receiving threatening calls. One demand was for $200,000! Is this Taliban Business Venture? While Chinese engineers are being ‘hand delivered’ by Mr. 10% to the Chinese authorities. Those who were kidnapped will NOT want to return to Pakistan to work in developing the country. Swat is becoming a safe haven for the Taliban and others who want to follow them.

With Women’s shops closed, Barber’s businesses closed and very few children attending schools. This is not a rosy picture. It is the same picture of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Posted by bulletfish | Report as abusive

Dear Moderators
I request you to review the language of the comment before you allow it to be posted, Its reuters for God’s sake. I found the language used by some bloggers Ali, Hussain et al to be particularly appaling. I would request you to remove those posts from the site. I will also urge’educated’ individuals on the forum to support the cause.

Posted by Omniscient | Report as abusive

A reader has objected to some comments posted on this blog as offensive in nature. While not getting into the merits of the case, we want to be absolutely clear that personal attacks or criticising another faith are unacceptable. It is also completely unnecessary.

We are for an open debate, and we realise these are emotive issues, but it must remain within the boundaries of civil discourse.

We will be looking at comments closely, and anything that breaches the basic norms of propriety will not be published.

We look forward to your cooperation and a healthy and productive debate.

Posted by Sanjeev Miglani | Report as abusive

Indian posters taunt Pakistanis, describe Pakistan as cancer, attack Islam and go on wild tangents that have nothing to do with the blog posting, and yet it is Pakistanis who are the problem ?


Good job Ali! You showed that Indians can dish out but they can’t take it.



Why don’t you and Ali get a room together because YOU Pakis have already bent over obediently for the Taliban. Whatever happened to Hum hai Pakistani to hum jeete geh? Or is that reserved for cricket?


Indian wins 3 Oscars.
Pakistan loses 1 Swat.

Why the HELL cannot your so-called PURE country contribute something meaningful to the world?


Posted by bulletfish | Report as abusive

Khan, Ali other abusers
U heard the moderator!! now start using your grey cells and come up with some decent arguments if u have any. Dont vomit the crap you learn in madarsas over here, keep that to brainwash your kids.

Posted by Omniscient | Report as abusive

There is some peace in Swat, indeed that makes Indians angry. A pity there is no peace in Kashmir for last 60 years.

Ali, thanks for putting these Indian posters in their place.


We know very well where our place in the world is. If 2 INDIANS can win 3 Oscars between them, that at least is a great achievement on the world stage.

YOU have got the Taliban crawling over your SOVEREIGN territory and soon YOUR PLACE will be 1000 years back! Its a pity because IF they do reach you will they allow you internet to continue your blogging?

As you stated: there is some peace in Swat. Why settle for some when you need total peace.


Posted by bulletfish | Report as abusive

Ali, Khan- This blog is about Afghanistan. I hope you guys have understood. I fail to understand why is there so much of Kashmir obsession with the Pakistanis. No matter what the topic is, they have to talk about it.

Guys… please understand that there is more to the world than Kashmir… Currently parts (large chunks) of your country are under Taliban control and they are within a striking distance from Islamabad.

Posted by Tushar | Report as abusive


We bring up Kashmir when the Indian posters on this blog attack Pakistan and Islam as a whole, while ignoring the actual blog post.

We also bring up Kashmir because the Kashmiris have suffered terribly at the hands of the Indian army for 60 years.


What does the Oscars have to do with politics ? or even geopolitics for the matter?

Its because of such looney comments that posters like Ali are needed, to bring some wayward Indian posters in line.


Bangash Khan Amir ALi
are Paks not Indians

They will be safer in India; you have wiped out all hindus and the tiny number living there are raped and abused on a daily basis, you want to talk about persecution go ask ask your women for a counselling tories/2009-02-11/does-pakistan-have-no- shame/2/


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