AFGHANISTAN….The news from Afghanistan these days isn’t just bad, it’s weird:
Local officials and villagers [near Kandahar] said the Taliban, who pushed into the area Sunday night, were laying mines, blocking roads and culverts and destroying footbridges, apparently preparing to do battle with arriving Afghan and Western troops.
….A Taliban field commander in Arghandab, reached by telephone, said his fighters were determined to hold their positions. He said his force had been bolstered by hundreds of prisoners who escaped Kandahar’s main prison last week in a Taliban-staged break.
This doesn’t make sense. Even several hundred Taliban fighters don’t stand a chance in a straight-up fight with NATO forces. What are they thinking?
Well, apparently they’re thinking that things have changed and they do have a chance of winning a set-piece battle with NATO forces. And we might be thinking the same thing. Fred Kaplan reports a piece of news I missed last week:
Gen. Dan McNeill, who recently finished a 16-month tour as NATO commander in Afghanistan, said last week that we need 400,000 troops to control the country. There are now just 110,000 (including 58,000 from the still-green Afghan National Army) and few prospects for recruiting many more — none for remotely approaching McNeill’s desired head count.
Kaplan suggests that our only real solution lies in thinking outside Afghanistan itself and trying to broker a regional “grand bargain” with Pakistan and Iran. “It is hard to imagine what the outlines of such a deal would look like,” he says, and I’d call that an understatement. But if McNeill is right, and we have only a quarter of the troops it would take to stabilize the country on our own, we might want to get started on thinking about this.