According to the Washington Post, “the incoming [Obama] administration does not anticipate that the Iraq-like ‘surge’ of forces will significantly change the direction of a conflict that has steadily deteriorated over the past seven years” but instead “expects that the new deployments… will help buy enough time for the new administration to reappraise the entire Afghanistan war effort and develop a comprehensive new strategy for what Obama has called ‘the central front on terror’” (13 January).
The new strategy is expected to emerge in early April, when the US would like Afghanistan and Pakistan to be at the top of the agenda at a NATO summit in France. (At the time of the protests for NATO’s sixtieth birthday.)
On 21 December, the Observer reported that the US was expected to deploy up to 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan – “a third more than anticipated” – and US forces have started arriving at Britain’s main military base in Afghanistan - Camp Bastion in Helmand province - where airfields are apparently to be built to bring in transport and warplanes in preparation for the coming offensive. The US is expected to send 10,000 troops to Helmand – outnumbering the 8,000-plus British contingent currently there.
On 11 December, the Guardian reported that British military planners were drawing up contingency plans to deploy a battle group of 1,500 soldiers in Afghanistan – but only for a limited period around the Afghan presidential election in September 2009.
On the other hand, scores of SAS special forces troops are expected to be transferred early next year from Iraq, where they have been engaged in operations against insurgent leaders. They will be reinforcing British Special Boat Service (SBS) soldiers who have been targeting Taliban leaders in Afghanistan.
On 16 January, the Guardian referred to “an expected deployment of up to 3,000 more troops”, noting also that the government is “deeply concerned about growing questioning of the presence in Afghanistan.”