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 article about Afghanistan
2009-09-15 19:19:36

This article belongs to And That's the Way It Is column.

Some time ago I mentioned that the war in Afghanistan, as it was then as well as the way it was then conducted, was basically unwinnable.

I have not changed my view and these days there are some added dimensions that will have to be taken into account when we start looking for solutions and exit strategies.

First of all, we need to look at the dynamics of Afghanistan as a country.

Any notion of a viable Afghan Government can be dispensed with very quickly.
Afghanistan has no national identity as a nation, the country consisting mainly of a collection of tribes and clans ruled by mainly warlords. No external power has ever been able been able to conquer Afghanistan with the most recent example being the then Soviets who got more than a bloody nose, eventually having to give the place up after sustaining massive losses.

The Soviets had many thousands of troops there and got nowhere. Afghanistan was for them as Vietnam was for the Americans.

Any notion of a viable Afghan Government can be dispensed with very quickly. It is corrupt, it has virtually no influence outside of Kabul's boundaries and major parts of the country are ruled by either warlords, some of which sit in Parliament, and/or the Taliban.

The main export commodity in Afghanistan these days is the opium (drug) trade in which many members of Parliament as well as the Taliban participate.

The threat of the Taliban as a fighting force is substantial. It is well armed, well funded and well motivated and any notion of the Taliban being a rag-tag guerrilla force can be dispensed with as nonsense. The tactics used are the classical guerrilla tactics of hit and run with some added dimensions. The Taliban have been known to attack and defend and to maintain positional combat as would a normal army adding to the suspicion that some if not all Taliban units have been trained by foreigners with some expertise in tactics and operational methodology.

There is substantial evidence, not admitted to by Nato countries, that the Taliban is being trained by former western special forces operatives.

One item of concern in Afghanistan is the IED. (Improvised Explosive Device). The IED terms is a contradiction.

There is nothing 'improvised' about these devices. They are being
In Afghan Army terms, one can essentially write off any effectiveness of the Afghan Army as ill-motivated, badly trained, badly equipped and ineffective.
produced in large quantities to a standard design and the materials to make these things are being imported in large quantities. They are essentially very effective land-mines.

The other item of concern is the use of suicide bombers. Given that most everyday supplies are moved by road, the use of a truck full of explosives operated by a suicide bomber is, in the Taliban's terms, highly effective.

In Afghan Army terms, one can essentially write off any effectiveness of the Afghan Army as ill-motivated, badly trained, badly equipped and ineffective. This situation may last for many years yet despite training being provided by many countries.

In Nato terms, the current use of 'standing armed services' supported by air power is highly ineffective. Moving a large, 'untrained for terrain' force into an area where the Taliban were and thus still are located leaves such units highly exposed to repeated rocket and other attacks. The only effective forces in an environment such as Afghanistan are SAS, Special Forces type units which essentially are able to conduct reverse guerrilla type warfare.
There is substantial evidence, not admitted to by Nato countries, that the Taliban is being trained by former western special forces operatives.

The difference as to where things will be headed and where they should be headed are substantial.

As things stand with the current strategy, Nato is not going to win this war neither in the short or long terms. It is simply not feasible and more moderate Taliban elements might as well be negotiated to alleviate things slightly.

One way to put a substantial slowing down on Taliban influence in place is to put exclusion zones onto Afghan borders which could be highly effective in terms of the inability to move weapons and other supplies into the countries, as well as the inability of moving opium out of the place. Such a measure should be regarded as interim only. All imports and exports could be monitored and anything not travelling through designated corridors would be subject to being targets for Special Forces, fighter aircraft and armed UAVs (drones).

The methods of this strategy would involve heavy unspecified weaponry dropped from aircraft this given the terrain of the areas involved. Such a strategy would also mean search and destroy incursions well into Pakistan with or without the cooperation of the Pakistani Army and Government and whilst Special Forces were in Pakistan, such forces should also feel free to clean up any Taliban and Al-Qaeda training bases along the way.

In all, I certainly don't think things are headed in the right direction in Afghanistan and I certainly am of the view that a major review of tactics is required with some rather unconventional methods being put on the table as options.

So like it or not

My name is Henk Luf.
And that's the way it is.

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