Afghanistan’s military challenge

February 13, 2009

Herschel Smith at the Captain’s Journal has picked up on a presentation about the increasing sophistication of Taliban fighting, which he thinks ”should be considered the most important thing to come out of Afghanistan in the past two years.”  It’s very focused on the approach he says the U.S. military needs to adopt in response, but worth a read even by those not interested in army tactics.

The conclusion is striking:

“Iraq has allowed us to become tactically sloppy as the majority of fighters there are unorganized and poorly trained.  This is not the case in Afghanistan.  The enemy combatants here will exploit any mistake made by coalition forces with catastrophic results.  Complacency and laziness will result in mass causalities.”

Over at Registan.net, Joshua Foust continues his series of reports from Bagram Air Base with a post fretting about how U.S. reluctance to take casualties has been institutionalised to the point where failing in a mission is less important than losing a soldier.  “As of late, I’ve been fighting this nagging feeling that, from command on down, there is no concerted desire to accomplish the mission, just a desire to finish one’s tour and head home and screw whoever has to pick up the pieces later,” he writes.

As discussed before on this blog, this reluctance to take casualties undermines any counter-insurgency strategy which would require troops to try to win hearts and minds by getting out of large bases and spreading out into the villages (the argument being that the more you protect your troops, the less secure you are in the long run).

Do look at both posts if you want to understand the extent of the military challenges faced in bringing stability to Afghanistan.

(Reuters photos in Semkar village in eastern Afghanistan/Oleg Popov)

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