Foolish to limit support personnel

When U.S. military helicopters were sent to Afghanistan to aid in the battle against terrorists there, many of their mechanics stayed behind in this country.

Men and women accustomed to servicing the aircraft and with a very real stake in doing it well — their comrades in arms fly the choppers — were told taking them to Afghanistan was against the rules.

Gen. John Nicholson, who heads the U.S. military force in Afghanisan, explained the situation in response to a question from a member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee last week.

Asked about use of private contractors by U.S. forces, Nicholson explained many tasks normally performed by military personnel have had to be turned over to contractors, because of limits on the number of troops permitted to be sent to Afghanistan.

Under former President Barack Obama’s orders, there are just 8,400 U.S. troops battling Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan.

It was an error in more ways than one. As Nicholson noted, private contractors hired to maintain and repair the helicopters cost substantially more than military mechanics. And, though he did not mention it, they have to be protected by troops.

Politically motivated restrictions on troop strength in troubled areas are invitations to defeat. Including support personnel in those limits is just plain stupid. It costs taxpayers more while often putting civilians and even the troops supposedly being safeguarded in danger.

No wonder so many in the armed forces, from privates on up to generals, have little faith in civilian leadership.

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