Last month, as President Obama announced the upcoming redeployment of 33,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan, I was in that country spending time with U.S. Marines in Helmand province.
The reaction on the ground from commanders was one of surprise - the number and timing of the withdrawal was much higher and faster than they had anticipated. With troops on the line, however, the mood was more like, "I'm a United States Marine. I go where my Commander in Chief sends me and I'm not paid to have an opinion."
That said, everyone pointed to the big gains being made in training and recruitment of the Afghan forces who will replace us. Indeed, it felt as if all our energies in Afghanistan are now being directed toward preparing the Afghan forces for our imminent departure.
But there's one group of Americans that won't be coming home anytime soon, and are actually seeing their numbers increase in country. That's the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force, also known as CJSOTF-A.
Special operations forces are seeing a "mini surge" into the country to keep the level of pressure high on the Taliban as regular units prepare to head home.
This article from Stars and Stripes quotes sources at the Pentagon as saying that 16 Special Operations troops are considered equivalent to 100 regular troops. I'm not sure regular troops would agree with that number, but whatever.
Bottom line, commanders in Afghanistan are doing their best to accomplish their mission there with whatever resources they are allowed to use. And from what I've seen with my own eyes, they are doing a great job.
Will Afghanistan be ready to stand on its own feet by 2014 when all U.S. troops are slated to come home? That remains to be seen. But the military is giving it their best shot.