MARZAK, Afghanistan — In the middle of the night on July 23, U.S. Special Forces infiltrated a bowl-shaped valley in Paktika Province in remote eastern Afghanistan. Their target: a major Taliban encampment just outside this, which hadn’t had a government presence in decades. Taliban fighters had been using Marzak as a rest stop on the long road between Pakistan and Afghanistan’s major cities.
Archived posts from category ‘COIN’
After the year 2020 ground wars will be more intense and concentrated in the world’s crowded coastal cities. That’s the consensus from a panel of experts including current and retired Army officers and professional analysts.
There is perhaps no better measure of the failure of American strategy over the past decade than the fact that in both Iraq and Afghanistan, tactical objectives have been used to define victory. In particular, both wars have been characterized by an all-encompassing obsession with the methods and tactics of counterinsurgency. To be sure, the tactics of counterinsurgency require political and cultural acumen to build host-nation governments and economies. But understanding the political aspects of counterinsurgency tactics is fundamentally different from understanding core American political objectives and then defining a cost-effective strategy to achieve them. If it is to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past decade, American strategic thinking must regain the ability to link cost-effective operational campaigns to core policy objectives, while taking into consideration American political and popular will.
Their presence in Afghanistan is subtle. A solitary P-3 patrol plane, outfitted with sensors for over-land surveillance, shares a remote ramp with U.S. Air Force AC-130 gunships at Bagram Air Field outside Kabul. At forward operating bases in the country’s arid south, construction battalions — the famed Seabees — build runways and wooden huts for U.S. Marines advancing into Taliban territory. U.S. Navy sailors are a rare breed in land-locked Afghanistan. Although few in number, they play key supporting roles.
In May, a group of irate villagers in Gizab, Daikundi Province, an area largely left alone by NATO forces, banded together to take on the local Taliban head first — and won. This is the local turnaround we’ve all been looking for: a spontaneous locally-inspired, -organized and -led revolt against the heavy hand of the Taliban. And people said Iraq’s Anbar Awakening couldn’t work in Afghanistan, the fools! Foreign government and military personnel greeted the news with unabashed optimism.
The Taliban fighters opened up on the Americans from both sides. It was the night of March 28 in the Kunar Valley in eastern Afghanistan, and a patrol from the 2nd battalion of the U.S. Army’s 503rd Infantry Regiment was under attack. Rocket-Propelled Grenades exploded against the thick side armor of one vehicle. Bullets smacked into the windshield of another. Several vehicles had their armor chewed up and pieces of equipment blown off.
Indian Air Force Air chief Marshal P.V. Naik has clearly stated that the Air Force was not in favor of using air power in anti-Naxal operations, after 76 security police were massacred by the Maoist Naxal guerrillas in Chattisgarh on Tuesday.
Debating Chowkay Valley Engagement
Last month I accompanied a U.S. Army patrol let by Captain Joe Snowden into eastern Afghanistan’s Pashtun-dominated Chowkay Valley. The valley is a minor source of illegal poppies and a major source of local discontent and isolationism; Snowden wanted to get in there, convince the elders to stop growing poppies and try to get a foothold for the Afghan government.
FORWARD OPERATING BASE JOYCE, Afghanistan — The U.S. Army’s maps of Kunar province are marked with a line the color of blood. Inside the red border, the Army and other NATO forces can operate freely. Outside the line, patrols must be bigger. And they require air escort. “Indian country,” one soldier calls these zones.
Axeghanistan ’10: Bagram Shura Video
There’s a new Afghanistan war plan. Last fall, NATO commander General Stanley McChrystal rolled out more restrictive rules of engagement, heralding a “population-centric” approach to the war. U.S. President Barack Obama announced more U.S. troops. While U.S.-led forces in eastern Afghanistan doubled their efforts to prop up faltering local governance, troops in the south identified [...]