The (Coming) Surge In Afghanistan: Brought To You By Kim And Fred Kagan?

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Frederick Kagan, the neoconservative think-tanker best known as the architect of the surge in Iraq, continues to have access to Gen. Stanley McChrystal as an adviser after serving as part of a team producing the recent assessment of the Afghan war, a spokesman for the general tells us.

It had been reported that Kagan and his wife, military historian Kimberly Kagan, were part of the group that advised McChrystal on the high-profile assessment that warns of “mission failure” if more troops are not sent. But it wasn’t previously known that Kagan’s work with McChrystal extended beyond the review.

It’s striking that Kagan, who writes for the Weekly Standard, guest blogs at National Review, and advised the Bush Administration on Iraq, is now advising President Obama’s top commander in Afghanistan.Some of the advisers who worked on the assessment “including the Kagans occasionally exchange correspondence with General McChrystal, who appreciates a diversity of views on the issues he confronts in Afghanistan,” McChrystal spokesman Tadd Sholtis told TPMmuckraker in an e-mail.

We followed up by asking if it was accurate to describe the Kagans as “McChrystal advisers” — as the AP and NPR have in recent days (AP mentions both Kagans, NPR only Fred). Sholtis responded:

“If you’re just going to say they’re advisers in some kind of neutral way, then yes. If by saying they’re advisers you’re going to imply that we’re in some kind of neocon thrall, then no. Like I said, he takes advice from all sides.”

It’s been observed that no one who advised McChrystal on the review “thinks the war effort is adequately resourced.” This list of the dozen advisers gives a sense of how “all sides” is defined. Besides AEI, other organizations represented include: the RAND Corporation, Brookings, the Center for Strategic & International Studies, and the Center for a New American Security.

There’s little doubt the Kagans were strong proponents within the assessment team of sending more American troops to Afghanistan. They argue in a co-bylined Washington Post op-ed and a new report for the American Enterprise Institute, where Fred is a resident scholar, for 40,000 to 45,000 new U.S. troops in 2010. Fred also signed on to a letter from conservatives to Obama beseeching the president to approve an escalation in Afghanistan.

He held forth at an AEI panel earlier this year on Iraqis’ tolerance, relative to Afghans, for civilian deaths caused by American forces, saying that Iraqis were “not bitching about collateral damage.” Reducing civilian deaths in Afghanistan has been declared a priority by McChrystal.

McChrystal, for his part, has followed up the strategic assessment with a request asking for somewhere between 10,000 and 40,000 extra troops, Bob Woodward reported Sunday. That would be on top of the 21,000 new troops Obama has ordered to Afghanistan, for a total of 68,000, plus tens of thousands of non-US NATO troops, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 70,000 contractors.

Neither Fred nor Kimberly Kagan, who were each out of their offices Friday, responded to requests for comment. We’ll update this post if they do.

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