General Stanley McChrystal, who was put in charge of the war effort in Afghanistan by commander-in-chief and chief executive Barack Obama, reported last summer that he needed between 40,000 and 60,000 additional troops in Afghanistan to get the job done and put the kibosh on the Taliban (pronounced Tahl-ee-bahn by the president) once and for all.
After months of indecision the president announced last night that he will send the general approximately half of the maximum number that was requested. The president-in-chief apparently is basing his decision on the concept that if the general really needed 30,000 he would ask for twice that amount figuring that if his request was cut in half, he could still get the job done.
There is plenty of second-guessing and criticism going on around the country after the president's speech last night, with much of it coming from Mr. Obama's own party. Some say that sending more troops to the area will "destabilize" it. What? I thought there was a war and fighting and all sorts of unpleasantness going on there. How is that stable? Good grief. I am so sick of hearing hand-wringing whiners determine our foreign policy based on "What ifs!"
Nonetheless, an additional 30,000 troops will be going to Afghanistan - that's pronounced AFF-GAN-I-STAN - and it is a safe bet that properly applied they will in fact put a smack down on the Taliban. The military will be able to use the new troops in numerous ways, not the least of which is as a blocking force if the Taliban are forced out of hiding in the mountains of western Pakistan. (Unlike Aff-gan-i-stan Pakistan is pronounced PAHK-EEE-STAHN by Mr. Obama. I don't know why.)
The big fly in the troop surge ointment is that the president in chief also said they will be in AFF-GAN-I-STAN for no longer than 18 months, and then they are our of there. That is bad, very bad. It amounts to telegraphing your punches, which as anyone who has ever followed boxing, wrestling, mixed martial arts, cage fighting, other forms of structured fighting or even street brawls is aware, you never ever do.
But Mr. Obama did it, so that means our troops will have to get busy and get busy very quickly. Many commentators and gas bag politicians are saying they won't be needed or used until the spring because winter is descending on the mountains of eastern Afghanistan and western Pakistan which in their world means no fighting until April.
Allow me to retort. (Pulp Fiction)
Winter weather should not mean an end to our troops doing what our troops do best, which is to kill the enemy. In fact, we should be mounting surprise operations in the middle of the worst of it to keep the Tahl-ee-bahn off guard.
I would recommend some reading of Scottish history - prior to the Union of the Crowns - in which Scottish patriots marched all night over snow-covered highlands to attack British troops who were garrisoned and sleeping deeply, secure in the belief that no one but savages would march and fight during a Highland winter.
Even if our forces can't launch major offensive actions due to the difficulties posed by heavy snows, closed passes and roadways, and plunging temperatures, both the Army and the Marine Corps have plenty of cold-weather-training graduates who can harass the Taliban all winter long. (Reading up on the German offensive called the Battle of the Bugle in WWII might give our planners some good ideas.) Keeping the terrorists off balance and fearful during a period when they had planned on getting much needed rest and resupply is a great strategy and a doable tactic.
Then in the spring when the large offensive actions are launched, the Taliban fighters will not be rested and won't be ready to fight back as effectively as they would with a full winter of recuperation behind them. Since the president has made the grievous error of announcing a withdrawal date, the Taliban now have the option of simply hiding until we go away, and then emerging stronger and more determined than ever.
Thus, our forces need to kill a whole bunch of Taliban fighters, tens of thousands of them if that many exist, and they need to do it quickly. Throughout the winter the Taliban should be constantly badgered by cold-weather snipers, unmanned observation and attack drones, and small unit ambushes backed by artillery and Marine air for close-in support.
In the spring, summer and fall they should be mercilessly hounded and destroyed. Knowledgeable military leaders and veterans believe that a long-term counter-insurgency strategy is the best plan for achieving peace and stability in Afghanistan. It is obvious that there will be far less urban warfare, and far fewer opportunities to use massive armor formations, since the mountains pose a major obstacle to armored forces - in addition to limiting the use of helicopters above certain altitudes.
The best strategy would have been a massive buildup of forces to kill as many Taliban as possible, combined with a long term counter-insurgency force.
Presumably, eliminating the Taliban will eliminate the Al Qaeda operatives and leaders who are hiding among them, and this is crucial to offset the president's error of announcing a withdrawal date. By most accounts that was done to appease the anti-war faction of the president's party which is exactly the wrong reason to make any decision that affects our troops. Unfortunately the president was once again playing to political factions and not thinking about the overall effectiveness of his strategy.
First he took away the option of applying overwhelming force by giving only half of what was requested, and then by refusing to commit to victory regardless of how long it takes he took away the option of wearing the enemy down through time and unsustainable losses. The president's two actions taken together could combine to also deny our troops a victory, even though victory is absolutely possible under numerous scenarios.
So the troops will have to start right away and begin killing as many Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters as possible. Thus, in 18 months, the Taliban, like the Viet Cong in Vietnam 40 years ago, will no longer exist as either a political or military entity.
Oh, and can you believe the corrupt US Congress is talking about the cost?! The fathead spendthrifts who are spending trillions upon trillions of dollars on fake "stimulus" money, and a takeover of the national health insurance industry, are suddenly getting a dose of fiscal responsibility? Yeah, I agree. That would be a great laugh if it was really funny instead of being the latest example of out-of-control, out-of-touch hypocrisy.
I'll tell you what though. Out in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, American troops are dug in looking across the border to Pakistan, waiting for reinforcements, waiting for relief, and hoping to get the green light to put an end to this once and for all. They aren't laughing. You can bet the farm that they aren't laughing.
Neither are most of the American voters back home who support them.
Wednesday, December 02, 2009