Afghanistan: World's Lengthiest War Has Just Begun
The higher number of Defense Department contractors, 160,000, added to over 100,000 troops - with the likely prospect of both numbers climbing yet more - will result in over a quarter of a million U.S. personnel serving under the Pentagon and NATO. The latter has 42,000 non-U.S. troops fighting under its command currently and pledges of 8,000 more to date, with thousands in addition to be conscripted after the London conference on Afghanistan next month. Approximately 35,000 U.S. soldiers are also assigned to NATO's ISAF and if the 33,000 new American troops are similarly deployed the North Atlantic bloc will have over 120,000 forces fighting a land war in Asia. Along with a Pakistani army of 700,000 active duty troops fighting on the other side of the border and an Afghan army of 100,000 soldiers, there will soon be well over a million military personnel engaged in a war with a few hundred al-Qaeda and a few thousand Taliban forces.
Despite U.S. President Barack Obama's pledge in his December 1 address at the West Point Military Academy that deploying 30,000 more of his nation's troops to Afghanistan would be coupled with "a goal of starting to withdraw forces from the country in July 2011," everything else he has said and all the facts on the ground suggest that the war will continue into the indefinite future.
At a press conference a week before the West Point troop surge announcement he said "it is my intention to finish the job," and in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech on December 10 he affirmed: "We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes."
History establishes that it is easier to deploy to than to withdraw from an active war zone.
The White House has already increased U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan from 32,000 at the beginning of the year to over twice that amount - 68,000 - currently, with the first contingent of even more reinforcements arriving this week. The 30,000 additional troops headed to the war front and the 3,000 more support forces pledged by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will push American military personnel in Afghanistan to over 100,000.
That number, likely to be increased yet further and accompanied by a veritable invasion of private military contractors and State Department operatives, will be augmented by over 10,000 more non-U.S. troops serving under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), bringing combined American and NATO regular military forces to well over 150,000 and total Western personnel to over 300,000 with an estimated surge of as many as 56,000 new U.S. contractors. With the addition of assorted security, intelligence, private contracting and other military camp followers from NATO nations, the figure could top a third of a million.
An occupation and warfighting force of those dimensions is not designed for a limited mission or a short stay.
In fact on December 6 U.S. National Security Adviser James Jones (former top NATO military commander in Europe) gave the lie to the 2011 withdrawal anodyne in an interview with CNN when he brashly asserted "We have strategic interests in South Asia that should not be measured in terms of finite times. We're going to be in the region for a long time."
Jones also emphasized the extension of the war in space as well as time by stating American reinforcements and redeployments would concentrate on eastern and southern Afghanistan to "eliminate the safe havens" inside Pakistan, a nation with a population of 175 million and nuclear weapons.
His claims, more authoritative than those of the president he serves, were echoed by Pentagon chief Robert Gates. Earlier this week it was reported that "In a visit to the war zone last week, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Afghanistan's senior military officials that while the U.S. looks forward to the day when the Afghans can take control of their country, the United States would have a large number of forces in Afghanistan for some time beyond July 2011."
Gates in his own words: "This is a relationship forged in blood. We will see it [through] to the end." 
To demonstrate the scale of the U.S. and NATO intensification of the war in Afghanistan - so urgent, evidently, that it is being qualitatively escalated during the Christmas season - in addition to Gates's visit to the Afghan war front, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, new German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor Zu Guttenberg and other top Western military and political leaders have recently traveled to Afghanistan to inspect their respective nations' military forces stationed there.
On December 16 the first of the latest 30,000 U.S. troops committed to the war and the 16,000 that have received deployment orders since Obama's December 1 speech, 1,500 Marines, arrived in the nation, prompting Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell to crow "The surge has begun in earnest." 
The Washington Post ran a feature on December 16 based on a report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) - "which provides background information to members of Congress on a bipartisan basis" - in which the CRS stated "it expects an additional 26,000 to 56,000 contractors to be sent to Afghanistan. That would bring the number of contractors in the country to anywhere from 130,000 to 160,000."
In addition, that already astronomical figure "could increase further if the new [administration] strategy includes a more robust construction and nation building effort." The report also remarked that as of a year ago contractors accounted for 69 percent of Defense Department personnel in Afghanistan and as such "represented the highest recorded percentage of contractors used by the Defense Department in any conflict in the history of the United States." 
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