2005 October 11 Tuesday
US Soldiers Going Deeper Into Remote South Afghanistan

Scott Baldauf of the Christian Science Monitor is writing a 3 part series on his experience embedding with US Army 82 Airborne soldiers as they flew into a remote part of Afghanistan and went on patrol. The soldiers carry 115 lbs of equipment.

For the next five days, I will have a front-row seat in what some call "The Other War," where 18,000 US troops continue fighting four years after ousting the Taliban government and sending Osama bin Laden into hiding. I will accompany a US Army squad carrying a mere 40 lbs. of body armor, notebooks, water, and MREs, while they carry up to 115 lbs. of "battle rattle" - guns, ammo, food, body armor, radios, and night-vision equipment.

The villagers need to be friendly to both the Taliban and the US and Afghan government soldiers.

But as they patrol the villages, the squad also knows that democracy often has little to do with local loyalties. Unarmed Afghan villagers will always cooperate with whatever gunman is in town at a given time. Brannan's men know that a village of "friendlies," as cooperative Afghans are called, can turn into a Taliban haven overnight.

"I don't know who the villagers are closer to, the Taliban or us," says Senior Airman Brian Mellon, alias Gunslinger 37. He's an Air Force forward air controller temporarily assigned to Brannan's unit to call in and coordinate airstrikes if needed. "If we go there, we talk to them, give them food. But if the Taliban go there, they beat the local people. So if your life's in danger, it's more conducive to work with the Taliban."

US soldiers are going deeper into remote areas where US forces haven't previously patrolled. When a village has ammunition but no guns the soldiers assume that the ammo belongs to the Taliban. What I find curious is that some villages are so poor the people can not even afford guns - and this in a country with large numbers of guns.

I'll update this post with links to the 2nd and 3rd parts of the series when those articles show up on the web.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 October 11 12:59 AM  Military War, Rumours Of War

Brock said at October 11, 2005 11:28 AM:

We should give them guns. That way their loyalties will become evident when they either shoot at our troops or shoot at the Taliban. If they shoot at us, we call in an air strike and wipe out an enemy stronghold. If they shoot at the Taliban/ Al Qaeda, great; we've made their lives better and they'll be that much more helpful.

Since we can absorb more risk than Al Qaeda, it's a win-win strategy to arm the populace.

Stephen said at October 11, 2005 3:49 PM:

Brock, you mean your policy would be to create an enemy 'stronghold' by arming the villagers, and then bring in the heavies to destroy that same stronghold? A better idea might be to not create the stronghold in the first place, and then you won't have to destroy it. Otherwise it smacks of drowning someone to see if they're a witch.

Second, what if the villagers (sorry, 'stronghold occupants') don't want any soldiers (western or taliban) kicking down their doors? Would you still bring in the B52s to kill every man, woman and child because someone was foolish enough to use the guns you supplied them to shoot at a soldier invading their home?

Third, can you reliably distinguish between a Taliban with an AK47 and a villager with an AK47? If a Taliban goes into the village (sorry, 'stronghold') and shoots at a US soldier, would you feel happy to call in the B52s to blow everyone in the village to hell? By doing so, haven't you essentially provided the means for a Taliban to become a suicide bomber who can destroy an entire village?

Fourth, 'Taliban' isn't an synonym for 'Al Qaeda'.

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