On War in Pakistan and Afghanistan

July 8, 2009

If you were to apply the advice of 19th century Prussian military strategist Carl von Clausewitz that one of the objectives of war is to destroy the effective strength of the enemy, it is still not clear how that aim is to be achieved when it comes to fighting the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Predictably, the Taliban has melted away in the face of offensives in both countries, retaining its capacity to live to fight another day and to open new fronts in other areas.

In Pakistan, the army has driven Taliban militants out of towns in the Swat valley and won control of the main lines of communication after launching an  offensive at the end of April. But clashes are still flaring daily in some areas, writes Reuters Islamabad correspondent Robert Birsel in this analysis. “Unless you eliminate the leadership, however much damage you do, the command structure will manage to grow back,” he quotes security analyst Ikram Sehgal as saying. “As long as that leadership exists, low-intensity guerrilla warfare will keep going on.”

In the meantime, the Pakistani Taliban are expected to try to open up other fronts to distract the Pakistan Army both from cleaning up Swat and launching an offensive in South Waziristan, the base of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud.

In Afghanistan,  U.S. Marines have met with little resistance after launching an offensive last week in Helmand province.

But Josh Foust at Registan.net writes that the decision to go in force into Helmand could leave other parts of Afghanistan vulnerable.

“By now, I thought it had become conventional wisdom that the Taliban learned they can never win on the conventional battlefield—that, rather than staging defiant but futile battles, as they did in the 2002 time frame, they instead slink away when there is a major operation, bide their time, and filter back in when the troops leave to intimidate, harass, and punish the collaborators NATO left behind,” he says. “So here we have the Helmand insurgency behaving exactly as it does in other provinces, while safe provinces show increasing signs of fracture and violence…”

“One of the methods of doctrinal counterinsurgency is to start in the easy areas, make them models, and move into increasingly more difficult ones.” So why, he asks, did the U.S. army choose ”to jump right into the hardest province in the country to manage….”

Presumably there is an overall gameplan to destroy the effective strength of the Taliban, by winning over the hearts and minds of the local population in both countries by providing security and development; by cutting off the militants’ source of funding by targeting opium-growing areas in Helmand; and by co-ordinating operations between Afghanistan and Pakistan so they can no longer hide by going back and forth across the border.

What is worrying though, is that it does not yet seem clear how that gameplan is meant to fit together.

And in the meantime, the Taliban has had plenty of time to come up with a rival plan of its own. Perhaps it’s worth considering what the Taliban might do if its aim were to destroy the effective strength of the enemy.

(Photos: U.S. Marines in Helmand/Ahmad Masood)

Comments

How about targeting the ‘Taliban producing factories’ a.k.a medrasahs? Channelize the young minds towards doing something productive rather than wasting life in the name of religion. This cannot be done by America. It has to be done by people in Af-Pak.Today if a few Talibans are killed then tomorrow there will be more coming out of these medresahs. How long will the killing continue?

Posted by Sunny | Report as abusive
 

Taliban will be finished soon. Our army, once it has set its mind on a goal, always completes the job. There is no turning back. Taliban experiment worked well in the case of Afghanistan. From Pakistan’s stand point, it was a strategic move. We had a friendly nation on the West side who were willing to house and train the Kashmiri freedom fighters. Unfortunately, the Taliban had its own agenda and allowed Al Qaeda to settle in Afghanistan. And Al Qaeda went beyond the limit and targeted world powers. The rest of what happened need no further mention. However, there is a clear understanding between the US and Pakistan. The US is interested only in Bin Laden (alive or dead) and the elimination of Al Qaeda. Pakistan has wholeheartedly worked with the US in this regard. They did not mind the Taliban initially. However, Taliban has become a road block to their objectives. On top of that, it began to spread inside Pakistan. So now there is a change in the plan. In addition to Al Qaeda, Pakistan will also work with the US to eliminate the Taliban. And the deal ends with that. Indians should not day dream about being let off in Kashmir. The US knows that LeT, HuJ etc are Kashmir specific groups and will not harm anyone globally. They are charity-militant organizations like the Hamas and Hezbollah. The US can tolerate such groups as there is an element of truth in what they are pursuing. So we will wait until all the dust settles in NWFP and FATA. Then we will go back to our regional goals that are left unfinished for 60 odd years. We will bring justice to Kashmir. India should look at its unfairness and return East Pakistan and its occupied portion of Kashmir to us. Then all will be peaceful. LeT will no longer go after India and focus on charitable activities. So to make them do that, India has to come down from the high plane and do the right thing. That will be the final chapter in this long war that started in 1948 and has taken many different shapes. Battles might have been won over time. But the war never ended. And Pakistan will not allow that to happen until we get our justice. That is one reason why India has been unable to find much support from the Western powers. They can see the situation from a different view and realize that Pakistan has had an unfair deal. India cannot go on assuming that Pakistan will go quiet after finishing off the Taliban. We will build a much stronger Pakistan and we will get everything that we lost through betrayal and double dealing. All Pakistanis are together in this.

 

Sunny,If the madrassas are targetted then every Pakistani from Bradford (UK) to Lahore would get on their Jihadi high horse.Those who are studying in the madrassas, let them study, it is when they leave and DECIDE to take up a weapon.I read this article: Inside a Pakistani school where children are being brainwashed into terrorists (Daily Mail, 02/07/2009). In this article, Imam Mohammed Naeem stated that funding comes from zakat. According to security officials in Karachi, this is not true, but they cannot do anything about it because the imam wields great influence.Let the madrassa students become what they want to become and let them not complain at the consequences of their actions.

Posted by bulletfish | Report as abusive
 

The 4000 marines cannot control territory, but can cut off transit points and destroy poppy. When Afghan security forces match our own built up forces next summer is when territory can be held. Wahabi style maddrassahs are a scourge on the world with their false jihad against the west. CIA coin has set up drone attack targets in Pakistan and will work against the underground Taliban leadership as well if used. Our policy against harming civilians will backfire if we don’t use dogs to sniff out males hiding under burkas as was recently done. To win the people you must improve their standard of living which won’t happen until next summer. Developing an airborne EMP ability of a half mile could end IED’s use as weapons. While Canada and Australia have kept up their support in the Afghan theater, Europe has stepped back and walked away from real help to Pakistan’s IDPs. Too bad it will take another London or Madrid type attack to wake them up.

Posted by Jimbo | Report as abusive
 

I dont think the afghans are going to be much help, they seem to be pretty much unanimously against the occupation and the corrupt US installed government.The soldiers are paycheck drones as opposed to idealistic warriors ready to die for afghanistan.Jimbo: Developing an (airborne?) EMP to stop IED’s would probably just knock out all the US equipment and not stop the IED as an EMP is only effective on micro circuitry, needs a huge power supply to set off even once and is a very large and heavy weapon if it is to have any range. If the taliban were using a small reciever for remote detonation they could easily shield this from an EMP.As for Australia, our people have never been with the US, but our leaders force us to back your every single call to arms against our will. We had a polled massive majority of the population against the Iraq war but our government simply ignored us..Terrorism is the beast you created and now you should have to deal with it, now because we helped you guys attack these arab countries we are starting to become grouped in the same catagory, when we as a people are nothng like americans. Its already harder for us to travel overseas, thanks a lot John Howard!

Posted by brian | Report as abusive
 

How about targeting the ‘Taliban producing factories’ a.k.a medrasahs? Channelize the young minds towards doing something productive rather than wasting life in the name of religion. This cannot be done by America. It has to be done by people in Af-Pak.Today if a few Talibans are killed then tomorrow there will be more coming out of these medresahs. How long will the killing continue?How about targetting those who support, arm and train the Taliban? their weapons don’t just materialize out of thin air. If hunches are right, it appears that some of the Billions of U.S. aid given to Pakistan may be being used to arm the Taliban to kill U.S. and NATO soldiers

Posted by Global Watcher | Report as abusive
 

Anjum says “Our army, once it has set its mind on a goal, always completes the job. There is no turning back.”Yeah. We see the same attitude getting reflected in their creation, the Taliban.You said “Taliban experiment worked well in the case of Afghanistan.From Pakistan’s stand point, it was a strategic move.We had a friendly nation on the West side who were willing to house and train the Kashmiri freedom fighters.”Seems like you guys love to live in a fantasy world. How can you call an experiment a success when it’s failure is hitting straight in your face?And by the way, your leaders keep saying that they provide only moral support to Kashmiris. How come you are talking about housing and training Kashmirifreedom fighters? And was there a lack of space in Azad Kashmir that you required an entire nation to the West to train the militants?For Pakistan there is nothing called strategic move. All it does is ‘move according to the wishes of the West’.Your leaders keep saying that the drones violate Pakistan’s sovereignty. When you can’t protect your own sovereignty, how come you can even think of Kashmir?Or is it another experiment and strategic move?You said: “We will bring justice to Kashmir. India should look at its unfairness and return East Pakistan and its occupied portion of Kashmir to us.”What do you call the gifting of a part of Kashmir to China? Justice to Kashmiris?fairness?Can you go and ask China to return it first before you ask the same from India?And what on earth made you think that India holds East Pakistan? Anywayz, when you have nukes why are you afraid of going and occupying it? Go ahead and ask your army to work towards this goal. And tell them to complete the job and not to turn back this time. Good luck!

Posted by Sunny | Report as abusive
 

@Indians should not day dream about being let off in Kashmir. The US knows that LeT, HuJ etc are Kashmir specific groups and will not harm anyone globally. They are charity-militant organizations like the Hamas and Hezbollah.–by Mohammed Anjum-”Not harm anyone globally”–really??? I think you were sleeping through Mumbai terror attack. That LeT mission left 166 dead and among them were 28nationals from 10countries. So they have gone global buddy. Time to say they are terrorists. I guess yiu need more heat to act like in taliban’s case.@We will bring justice to Kashmir. India should look at its unfairness and return East Pakistan and its occupied portion of Kashmir to us. Then all will be peaceful. LeT will no longer go after India and focus on charitable activities.”–by Mohammed Anjum-why should I believe you that “LeT will no longer go after India and focus on charitable activities.” and they will read Koran the whole day???????

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive
 

Mr. Rajeev: “I think you were sleeping through Mumbai terror attack. That LeT mission left 166 dead and among them were 28nationals from 10countries. So they have gone global buddy. Time to say they are terrorists. I guess yiu need more heat to act like in taliban’s case.”The Mumbai case is still yet to be settled. In a war zone, people get caught in the cross fire and that is unfortunate. But that does not mean that they were specifically targeted. However, it is in India’s interest to avoid such calamities by coming forward to settle Kashmir with Pakistan once in for all. Because of India’s adamant stance, its citizens are facing the barrel of the militant’s guns. I am not justifying the killing of innocents. That is unfortunate. But India’s military has killed a hundred times more humans in the valley. And there is no accountability for that. So pull all the troops from the valley. Come to the negotiating table and discuss about a time table of handing off occupied Kashmir to Pakistan as per the partition arrangement or a plebiscite under UN supervision. As a Pakistani, I will be happy with that. We lost East Pakistan, thanks to you. And I am willing to forgive your country for that. I cannot vouch for LeT and others. They run their own goals and sometimes it matches with our wishes.

 

Anjum:”In a war zone, people get caught in the cross fire and that is unfortunate.”Can you go and mention the same to the IDPs who lost their kin in indiscriminate shelling by your Army.You said “But India’s military has killed a hundred times more humans in the valley. And there is no accountability for that.”I am not aware of HUNDREDS of human killings by Indian Army(you are most welcome to substantiate your claim).However, since Internet is a huge source to get unbiased information, can you please go through the following links in addition to your government designed text books/media?http://www.genocidebanglades h.org/http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1971_ Bangladesh_atrocitiesEven after going through the links, if you still want to hold India responsible for your losing of East Pakistan then rational thinking does not make any sense to you.Forget about forgiving India. Can you forgive your Army for the genocide? In fact, you have to ask your Army to beg forgiveness from the Bangladeshis.You said “I cannot vouch for LeT and others.”. In another blog(http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld  /2009/07/01/poll-pakistanis-against-tal iban-disagree-over-sharia-views/#comment s) you wrote “LeT can have whatever policy it wants. But they will settle for Kashmir.”When an ordinary Pakistani like you can make such mutually contradictory statements no wonder your so called Army excels in making such statements(most notably the American drones operations). Can America conduct drone operations without the consent of your Army? If yes, then you have a useless Army which cannot protect the sovereignty of your country. What is the use of giving billions of American tax payer dollars to such Army which cannot protect your sovereignty but busy in creating,nurturing and exporting terrorism?

Posted by Sunny | Report as abusive
 

@The Mumbai case is still yet to be settled.-Posted by mohammed Anjum–It is done and dusted case that planners were from Pakistani soil but I also know no one will be brought to justice except your dear countryman Kasab–who much of Pakistanis thought was Indian “Hindu” terrorist–might die eventually. But that does not mean Pakistan is innocent.@In a war zone, people get caught in the cross fire and that is unfortunate. But that does not mean that they were specifically targeted.”–you proved that 1. you missed the news—terrorists were looking for non-Muslim foreigners, especially Americans, British, Jews and all Indians. They killed few Jews and killed 40 Muslims from India. 2. what “war”are u talking? Pakistan’s war against using made in Pakistan Faridlkot toys like Kasab in the name of Kashmir. what a Joke!!!

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive
 

mohammed Anjum: I missed this point.@We lost East Pakistan, thanks to you. And I am willing to forgive your country for that.”–You are again out of touch with news–Bangladesh is waiting for an apology from Pakistan for the massacre of Millions–Hindus and Muslims-in E. Pak by W. Pak. Read this and the links in it. India has nothing to apologize for—-browse Dawn and read your ex Air chief (Asghar Khan) who said that India has been dragged into ALL wars by Pakistan.http://www.chapatimystery.com/a rchives/homistan/regarding_1971.htmlQuot e “Action for a Progressive Pakistan, a group of like-minded folks (I am a proud member) has just published an op-ed in Dhaka’s Daily Star concerning the actions of West Pakistan’s army against the people of (now) Bangladesh: We Apologize.”On May 13th, Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister Dipu Moni asked that Pakistan formally announce an apology for 1971. To which Pakistan answered: Let bygones be bygones. I thought the Daily Star had a powerful retort.”UnquoteMr. Anjum: “Let bygones be bygones” about everything and roll back your terrorist infrastructure. Ask your self this question: how long can Pakistan go with its current approach and how long can India go with its current approach? With Xinjiang happening, China would be rethinking its approach towards Pak and US sees Pakistan as “nearly rogue state”. Money does not grow on trees and empty slogans become a joke. Time is running out.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive
 

Mr. Anjum says:”On top of that, it began to spread inside Pakistan. So now there is a change in the plan. In addition to Al Qaeda, Pakistan will also work with the US to eliminate the Taliban. And the deal ends with that. Indians should not day dream about being let off in Kashmir. The US knows that LeT, HuJ etc are Kashmir specific groups and will not harm anyone globally.”Mr. Anjum, you have confirmed once again that you have a warped state of being. So elimination of local terrorists is not required? Last we checked in Mumbai, the LeT have shown themselves to be trans-national terrorists, rather than local ones and they killed Jews, Hindus, Muslims and Christians on 26/11.You Pakistani’s are incapable of controlling your own Frankenstein, the Taliban and your other Frankenstein, the LeT and proxy armies will start the carnage in Punjab province before you know it. Your local police there are too undermanned, undertrained and corrupt to stop them there and that is when Pakistan’s heart will begin to unravel. Please do the right thing and pre-emtively destory your Franksteins, take them by surprise.I guarantee you, the next Mumbai, planned on Pakistani soil, may lead to War and India does not intend to lose, there fore it is best if you crush your Frankensteins for all parties involved, otherwise the U.S. may see them as a threat as well and “URGE” Pakistan to drone them as well.Once the proxy armies are gone, Kashmir is a non-issue.M

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