I hope not all of this is old news. Some of the phrases in this article caught my eye: We're still figuring out our goals in Afghanistan. That's a good thing. - By Fred Kaplan - Slate Magazine "How did they come up with this number? This is where the cause for worry begins. It didn't come from any assessment of how many troops are needed for a particular mission. No decisions about a specific mission—an operational goal—have yet been made. The request for three brigades stems from one fact and one fact only: That's how many brigades will be available this year, as more troops pull out of Iraq. It's a number based on what we have, not on what we need. It has no substantive rationale." " When asked what missions the three extra brigades will perform, one Pentagon official said, "All of the missions." Some troops will chase terrorists, some will protect the population, some will train the Afghan army. … But three extra brigades—which, again, is all we can muster in the next year—aren't enough to do all that. (Some officials say that the NATO allies have agreed to up their efforts a bit, now that the popular Obama has replaced the much-loathed Bush, but they're unlikely to muster more than a few thousand troops—perhaps a brigade's worth. The allies could help more in other ways, for instance, in special forces, government administration, and training police. Bush never made such requests; perhaps Obama will.) " " Then there's the ultimate consideration: Even if everything goes splendidly in Afghanistan, it will count for naught unless the Taliban and al-Qaida are neutralized in neighboring Pakistan—a turbulent state that has nuclear weapons. There isn't much the United States can do about that problem militarily; it's a diplomatic puzzle to be worked out with other powers in the region. Gen. Petraeus will have a role to play in this; so, even more, will special envoy Richard Holbrooke. The issue of how many troops should do what in Afghanistan will be, by comparison, a sideshow—albeit an expensive, and perhaps a necessary, one. " Thoughts?