Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics
Bring on the tanks, they’ll come to like them in Afghanistan
The United States is introducing tanks into the fight against the Taliban in the Afghan south for the first time since 2001, but the logic behind the move is still being hotly debated.
One of the reasons advanced is that the arrival of the M1 Abrams tank, propelled by a jet engine and armed with a 120mm gun that can destroy a house more than a mile away, is going to shake up the battlefield. “The tanks bring awe, shock and firepower,” The Washington Post quoted a senior U.S. officer based in Afghanistan as saying. “It’s pretty significant.”
What is even more significant is the end-result that the U.S. military is hoping to achieve by unleashing such firepower in the Taliban stronghold. The aim is not just to destroy the Taliban, but also in a rather convoluted fashion show ordinary Afghans that the government and its Western backers call the shots in the countryside, not the Taliban. Over the past several months, as Wired blog reports the US has already stepped up air strikes, Special Operations raids, and artillery attacks, as part of General David Petraeus strategy to turn the heat on the Taliban with a view to forcing them to sue for peace.
And so while civilian casualties have been avoided, people have lost homes and farms in the U.S. military offensive in the south which clearly has been reshaped into a sustained series of deadly attacks, rather than a big-bang high profile operation of the Marjah type earlier this year. In one operation alone last month, U.S. planes dropped two dozen 2,000-pound bombs near Kandahar, the Post reported. You can imagine the impact of such firepower on the countryside. Trees, crops and huts – everything is going to be swept up under the weight of the assault.
Farmers have been asking U.S. military officers during community meetings why so many of their fields have been blown up in recent months. In public, the military has been apologetic about these attacks, but in private they are saying something else, the Post said. The destruction of homes and farms is forcing people to file claims for damaged property with the provincial administration and that is seen as a big gain because it reasserts the power of the civilian authority. “In effect, you are connecting the government to the people,” the newspaper quoted a U.S. officer as saying.
A rather extraordinary way of fostering links between the people and the administration. First, their property has to be damaged which will in turn compel them to approach the administration for help.
What if one, or several of them, turn to the Taliban for help, or indeed join the group having lost their homes and farms ?