The war in Afghanistan was the subject of three independent reports, all released yesterday. Buried by the resulting coverage, a fourth report by the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves, also published Thursday, warns that our non-professional soldiers—the ones shouldering much of the burden in Iraq and Afghanistan—are stretched to the breaking point.
Until Iraq, the Guard and Reserves were long considered a "backup" force, a sort of safety valve that could be pulled in the event of an emergency. But the occupation of Iraq (not to mention the hot-cold Afghan conflict), have fundamentally challenged the nature of what is expected from America's citizen soldiers. It's no longer the one weekend a month sort of deal it used to be. Rather, Guard and Reserve units have quickly evolved into crucial operational components of how the U.S. military projects power around the world. Trouble is, investment of personnel and resources remains stuck in an earlier time, and it's a disconnect that threatens the viability of the current U.S. force structure.