[R-G] Why the Afghan Surge Will Fail
Suzanne de Kuyper
suzannedk at gmail.com
Mon Nov 16 14:28:12 MST 2009
The US War Empire of the US absolutely dotes on dangerous illusions. Where
do these Mc Christal/Cheney type men come from? Where does the silence of
the US population come from?
On Sun, Nov 15, 2009 at 4:59 PM, RICHARD MENEC <menecraj at shaw.ca> wrote:
> Foreign Policy in Focus November 13, 2009
> Why the Afghan Surge Will Fail
> By Conn Hallinan
> Before the Obama administration buys into General Stanley McChrystal's
> escalation strategy, it might spend some time examining the August 12 battle
> of Dananeh, a scruffy little town of 2,000 perched at the entrance to the
> Naw Zad Valley in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province.
> Dananeh is a textbook example of why counterinsurgency won't work in that
> country, as well as a case study in military thinking straight out of Lewis
> Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.
> Strategic Towns
> According to the United States, the purpose of the attack was to seize a
> "strategic" town, cut "Taliban supply lines," and secure the area for the
> presidential elections. Taking Dananeh would also "outflank the insurgents,"
> "isolating" them in the surrounding mountains and forests.
> What is wrong with this scenario?
> One, the concept of a "strategic" town of 2,000 people in a vast country
> filled with tens of thousands of villages like Dananeh is bizarre.
> Two, the Taliban don't have "flanks." They are a fluid, irregular force,
> not an infantry company dug into a set position. "Flanking" an enemy is what
> you did to the Wehrmacht in World War II.
> Three, "Taliban supply lines" are not highways and rail intersections.
> They're goat trails.
> Four, "isolate" the Taliban in the surrounding mountains and forests?
> Obviously, no one in the Pentagon has ever read the story of Brer Rabbit,
> who taunted his adversary with the famous words, "Please don't throw me in
> the briar patch, Brer Fox." Mountains and forests are where the Taliban move
> The Taliban were also not the slightest bit surprised when the United
> States showed up. When the Marines helicoptered in at night, all was quiet.
> At dawn - the Taliban have no night-fighting equipment - the insurgents
> opened up with rockets, mortars, and machine guns. "I am pretty sure they
> knew of it [the attack] in advance," Golf Company commander Captain Zachary
> Martin told the Associated Press.
> Pinned down, the Marines brought in air power and artillery and, after four
> days of fierce fighting, took the town. But the Taliban had decamped on the
> third night. The outcome? A chewed-up town and 12 dead insurgents - that is,
> if you don't see a difference between an "insurgent" and a villager who
> didn't get out in time, so that all the dead are automatically members of
> the Taliban.
> "I'd say we've gained a foothold for now, and it's a substantial one that
> we're not going to let go," says Martin. "I think this has the potential to
> be a watershed."
> Only if hallucinations become the order of the day.
> Irregular Warfare
> The battle of Dananeh was a classic example of irregular warfare. The
> locals tip off the guerrillas that the army is coming. The Taliban set up an
> ambush, fight until the heavy firepower comes in, then slip away.
> "Taliban fighters and their commanders have escaped the Marines' big
> offensive into Afghanistan's Helmand province and moved into areas to the
> west and north, prompting fears that the U.S. effort has just moved the
> Taliban problem elsewhere," writes Nancy Youssef of the McClatchy
> When the Taliban went north they attacked German and Italian troops.
> In short, the insurgency is adjusting. "To many of the Americans, it
> appeared as if the insurgents had attended something akin to the U.S. Army's
> Ranger school, which teaches soldiers how to fight in small groups in
> austere environments," writes Karen DeYoung in The Washington Post.
> Actually, the Afghans have been doing that for some time, as Greeks,
> Mongols, British, and Russians discovered.
> One Pentagon officer told the Post that the Taliban has been using the
> Korengal Valley that borders Pakistan as a training ground. It's "a perfect
> lab to vet fighters and study U.S. tactics," he said, and to learn how to
> gauge the response time for U.S. artillery, air strikes, and helicopter
> assaults. "They know exactly how long it takes before...they have to break
> contact and pull back."
> Just like they did at Dananeh.
> McChrystal's Plan
> General McChrystal has asked for 40,000 new troops in order to hold the
> "major" cities and secure the population from the Taliban. But even by its
> own standards, the plan is deeply flawed. The military's Counterinsurgency
> Field Manual recommends a ratio of 20 soldiers for every 1,000 residents.
> Since Afghanistan has a population of slightly over 32 million, that would
> require a force of 660,000 soldiers.
> The United States will shortly have 68,000 troops in Afghanistan, plus a
> stealth surge of 13,000 support troops. If the Pentagon sends 40,000
> additional troops, U.S. forces will rise to 121,000. Added to that are
> 35,000 NATO troops, though most alliance members are under increasing
> domestic pressure to withdraw their soldiers. McChrystal wants to expand the
> Afghan army to 240,000, and there is talk of trying to reach 340,000.
> Even with the larger Afghan army, the counterinsurgency plan is 150,000
> soldiers short.
> An Afghan Army?
> And can you really count on the Afghan army? It doesn't have the officers
> and sergeants to command 340,000 troops. And the counterinsurgency formula
> calls for "trained" troops, not just armed boots on the ground. According to
> a recent review, up to 25% of recruits quit each year, and the number of
> trained units has actually declined over the past six months.
> On top of this, Afghanistan doesn't really have a national army. If Pashtun
> soldiers are deployed in the Tajik-speaking north, they will be seen as
> occupiers, and vice-versa for Tajiks in Pashtun areas. If both groups are
> deployed in their home territories, the pressures of kinship will almost
> certainly overwhelm any allegiance to a national government, particularly
> one as corrupt and unpopular as the current Karzai regime.
> And by defending the cities, exactly whom will U.S. troops be protecting?
> When it comes to Afghanistan, "major" population centers are almost a
> contradiction in terms. There are essentially five cities in the country,
> Kabul (2.5 million), Kandahar (331,000), Mazar-e-Sharif (200,000), Herat
> (272,000), and Jalalabad (20,000). Those five cities make up a little more
> than 10% of the population, over half of which is centered in Kabul. The
> rest of the population is rural, living in towns of 1,500 or fewer, smaller
> even than Dananeh.
> But spreading the troops into small firebases makes them extremely
> vulnerable, as the United States found out in early September, when eight
> soldiers were killed in an attack on a small unit in the Kamdesh district of
> Nuristan province. The base was abandoned a week later and, according to the
> Asia Times, is now controlled by the Taliban.
> MRAP Attack
> While McChrystal says he wants to get the troops out of "armored vehicles"
> and into the streets with the people, the United States will have to use
> patrols to maintain a presence outside of the cities. On occasion, that can
> get almost comedic. Take the convoy of Stryker light tanks that set out on
> October 12 from "Forward Operating Base Spin Boldak" in Khandar province for
> what was described as a "high-risk mission into uncharted territory."
> The convoy was led by the new Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP)
> vehicles designed to resist the insurgent's weapon-of-choice in Afghanistan,
> roadside bombs. But the MRAP was designed for Iraq, which has lots of good
> roads. Since Afghanistan has virtually no roads, the MRAPs broke down.
> Without the MRAPs the Strykers could not move. The "high-risk" mission ended
> up hunkering down in the desert for the night and slogging home in the
> morning. They never saw an insurgent.
> Afterwards, Sergeant John Belajac remarked, "I can't imagine what it is
> going to be like when it starts raining."
> If you are looking for an Afghanistan War metaphor, the Spin Boldak convoy
> may be it.
> Dangerous Illusions
> McChrystal argues that the current situation is "critical," and that an
> escalation "will be decisive." But as former Defense Intelligence Agency
> analyst A.J. Rossmiller says, the war is a stalemate. "The insurgency does
> not have the capability to defeat U.S. forces or depose Afghanistan's
> central government, and...U.S. forces do not the ability to vanquish the
> insurgency." While the purported goal of the war is denying al-Qaeda a
> sanctuary, according to U.S. intelligence the organization has fewer than
> 100 fighters in the country. And further, the Taliban's leader, Mullah Omar,
> pledges that his organization will not interfere with Afghanistan's
> neighbors or the West, which suggests that the insurgents have been learning
> about diplomacy as well.
> The Afghanistan War can only be solved by sitting all the parties down and
> working out a political settlement. Since the Taliban have already made a
> seven-point peace proposal, that hardly seems an insurmountable task.
> Anything else is a dangerous illusion.
> © 2009 Foreign Policy in Focus
> Conn Hallinan is a Foreign Policy In Focus columnist.
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