The Great Debate UK

from Afghan Journal:

Is the tide turning in southern Afghanistan ?

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The American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for the Study of War  has a new report out that says rather unequivocally that the United States is starting to turn the war around in southern Afghanistan following the surge. Since the deployment of U.S. Marines to Helmand in 2009 and the launch of an offensive there followed by operations in Kandahar, the Taliban has effectively lost all its main safe havens in the region, authors Frederick  W. Kagan and Kimberly Kagan argue.  

The Taliban assassination squad in Kandahar has ben dismantled, the insurgents' ability to acquire, transport and use IED materials and other weapons has been disrupted, and narcotics facilitators and financiers who link the drug market to the insurgency have been aggressively targeted.  Above all,  NATO and Afghan forces continue to  hold all the areas they have cleared in the two provinces, arguably the heart of the insurgency, which is a significant departure from the past.

The war is far from over, large parts of the country remain under insurgent control, and there is limited, if not negligent political  progress in the areas re-taken from the Taliban. But the momentum of the insurgency in the south has unquestionably been arrested and probably reversed, the authors say. 

Is the ground really shifting, and if so, what's behind this breakthrough ? Part of the reason is the arrival of 30,000 U.S. troops under the surge  which military commanders said was necessary to make a dent in an insurgency at its deadliest since 2001.  Another 1,400  Marines  have just been ordered , all part of efforts to crush the Taliban so America can make an honourable ext from its longest war yet. But it is not just more troops that General David Petraeus has thrown at  the resilient Taliban.

from Afghan Journal:

Bring on the tanks, they’ll come to like them in Afghanistan

(File picture of a M1 Abrams tank deployed in Iraq)

(File picture of a M1 Abrams tank deployed in Iraq)

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."

from Afghan Journal:

Engaging the Afghan Taliban: a short history

(The niche that once held a giant Buddha, in Bamiyan. Picture by Omar Sobhani)

(The niche that once held a giant Buddha, in Bamiyan. Picture by Omar Sobhani)

For those pushing for high-level political negotiations with the Afghan Taliban to bring to an end to the eight-year war,  two U.S. scholars  in separate pieces are suggesting a walk through recent history  The United States has gone down the path of dialogue with the group before and suffered for it, believing against its own better judgement in the Taliban's promises until it ended up with the September 11, 2001 attacks, says  Michael Rubin from the American Enterprise Institute in this article in Commentary.

Rubin, who is completing a history of U.S. engagement with rogue regimes, says unclassified U.S. State Department documents show that America opened talks with the Taliban soon after the group  emerged as a powerful force in Kandahar in 1994 and well over a year before they took over Kabul. From then on it was a story of   diplomats doing everything possible to remain engaged with the Taliban in the hope it would modify their  behaviour, and that they would be persuaded to expel Osama bin Laden who had  by then relocated from Sudan.  The Taliban, on the other hand, in their meetings with U.S. diplomats, would stonewall on terrorism  but would also dangle just enough hope to keep the officials calling and forestall punitive strategies.

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