Practice makes perfect. US forces are going to try to gain control of Kandahar again.
In theory, the Afghan government is in place in Kandahar, but its authority is nominal. Bombings and assassinations have left the government largely isolated behind concrete barricades and blast walls. In the latest burst of violence, a suicide squad struck across the city late Saturday, detonating bombs at a recently fortified prison, the police headquarters and two other sites, the Associated Press reported. At least 30 people were killed.
For the first time in years, however, the U.S. military again has Kandahar in its sights.
American troops are seeking to reclaim the city and surrounding province, where the Taliban has proved resurgent, more than eight years after the U.S.-led invasion forced the group from power. But a visit here last week made clear that American forces will face an insidious enemy that operates mainly in the shadows and exercises indirect control through intimidation and by instilling fear. The provincial governor remains mostly behind barricades. The provincial council has trouble convening because many members have fled to Kabul. The police are viewed as ill-trained, corrupt and possibly in league with criminal gangs.
"We will begin that transition no later than July 2011, but the pace will depend also on conditions on the ground," Gates said after watching training exercises at Camp Blackhorse, where U.S. and British forces train Afghan soldiers.
Also, the violence in Afghanistan today is far less severe than it was in Iraq. Before the troop surge in 2007, more Iraqi civilians were killed every month than have been killed from war-related violence in Afghanistan each year. In other words, Afghanistan is less than a tenth as violent as the Iraq of 2004-07. Communities were displaced and sectarian tensions were inflamed far more in Iraq than they have been in Afghanistan.
But low level violence is more business as usual in Afghanistan than it is in Iraq.
The major US goal in Afghanistan appears to be to leave a government in power that won't be overthrown by the Taliban when the US leaves. I do not see how the US can accomplish that goal. The Taliban families make new babies in large numbers. Defeat them now and in a few years a new generation will be old enough to take up the fight.
Why should defeating them this time be more effective? The creation of the Afghan Army is supposed to be the crucial difference that will allow US and NATO forces to withdraw. But will that army become an effective and loyal fighting force?
The Marine approach -- creative, aggressive and, at times, unorthodox -- has won many admirers within the military. The Marine emphasis on patrolling by foot and interacting with the population, which has helped to turn former insurgent strongholds along the Helmand River valley into reasonably stable communities with thriving bazaars and functioning schools, is hailed as a model of how U.S. forces should implement counterinsurgency strategy.
But the Marines' methods, and their insistence that they be given a degree of autonomy not afforded to U.S. Army units, also have riled many up the chain of command in Kabul and Washington, prompting some to refer to their area of operations in the south as "Marineistan." They regard the expansion in Delaram and beyond as contrary to the population-centric approach embraced by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, and they are seeking to impose more control over the Marines.
This report relays complaints from US Army officers and other nations that the US Marines are doing their own thing. But if all the military forces follow the same strategy then only one strategy can be tested at once. Better the Marines try something different in case the main approach fails.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2010 March 14 12:15 AM MidEast Afghanistan|