- 30,000. The number of extra troops to be sent to Afghanistan. It may be inadequate in terms of commonly used counterinsurgent/civilian ratios for COIN campaigns, but compared to Bush’s Iraq “surge” it’s a massive increase in troop strength — close to 50 percent. Not only will it have a profound social impact in the U.S., it will be very visible on the ground and affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of ordinary Afghans. Unfortunately, it will also generate huge media interest in the West, leading to a parallel surge of bad reportage and stupid punditry.
- 18. The number of months until the start of drawdown. Also known as “a year and a half”. Incidentally, also the number of months Obama allocated for his promised Iraq withdrawal. While this time frame has nothing whatsoever to do with Afghanistan, there is nothing arbitrary about it either. Simply put, it is the longest period of time a politician can describe in a difficult speech using months instead of years without sounding like a slimeball.
- 6. The number of years the U.S. neglected Afghanistan, according to Obama. Also the number of House Republicans who opposed authorising Bush to invade Iraq.
- 2011. Year of the promised “responsible transition” of U.S. troops out of Afghanistan. Also the year of U.S. pullout from Iraq. Also the year of the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Also the year of Canada’s announced departure from Afghanistan. (The Dutch will leave in 2010. The German mandate expires the same year.) Also the year when Obama will start preparing for his re-election campaign. Also the year when, according to Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, the world will end.