Speaking on CTV’s Question Period this weekend former Liberal deputy prime minister John Manley said that unless NATO makes a more “serious” troop commitment in Afghanistan, its mission in the war-torn country could fail. To illustrate the point he drew a comparison to NATO’s past involvement in war-torn Bosnia in the 90s. “When you just look at the commitment, it’s about 50,000 troops in Afghanistan. NATO sent 50,000 troops to Bosnia, which is a country of about 1.8 million. Afghanistan’s (population) is over 30 million.” According to this ratio, a similar commitment would involve fifteen times the number of troops NATO presently has deployed in Afghanistan, or in other words, something in excess of 700,000.
While that figure would be clearly excessive, not to mention totally unrealistic, it may be fair to suggest that four times the current number of troops (200,000) would be a reasonable number. It should be noted that, prior to the war in Iraq, U.S. General Shinseki famously said that “something in the order of several hundred thousand soldiers” would probably be required to fully secure that country post-invasion.
But again, this is far beyond anything NATO would ever be prepared to devote to the undertaking in Afghanistan. Which begs the question why Manley didn’t point out this fundamental lack of a more “serious” troop commitment when his vaunted “blue ribbon” panel reported back to the Harper government earlier this year? The commission’s requirement that NATO allies must agree to send 1,000 more troops to the Kandahar region in order for Canada to continue on until 2011 seems almost laughably pitiful in contrast to what Manley is now suggesting would actually be required for NATO to properly take charge of the situation and succeed in Afghanistan.