Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Most people just don't appreciate the restrictions we accept as we wage war against ruthless enemies.

We could use more troops in Afghanistan to secure the population from bad tribes, drug gangs, Taliban bands, and al Qaeda terrorists. But putting many more troops into Afghanistan when our supply lines run through Pakistan (and our back up line goes through Russia!) is not a good idea in my opinion. If putting more troops into Afghanistan leads to success in the short run, like if the Pakistanis seriously work on their side of the border, it could be a good risk. But if the troops are just sitting on defense for a decade or more, something bad could happen to our supply lines in that decade.

But it would be better if more troops came from Afghanistan itself. We are building Afghan security forces. Which our enemy knows is a problem for them. Having more Afghan troops to work with us is a good thing. Which is why the enemy likes incidents like this:

An Afghan policeman hurled a grenade and opened fire on a U.S. military foot patrol in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday, killing an American soldier and raising fears that insurgents have infiltrated the police.

It was the second attack by a policeman on U.S. soldiers in eastern Afghanistan in less than a month.

Of course the enemy is trying to infiltrate the security forces. Each attack like this undermines trust between American/Coalition forces and Afghan forces. That is the point of these infiltrations. The enemy did it in Iraq, too.

In Iraq, it was not fatal and we are winning. As long as our troops maintain good relations with "their" Afghan partners, this will not erode our ability to fight the enemy. But the enemy will try hard to break the bond between our forces. But we will carry on because we won't suppress the enemy old school by turning Afghanistan into a dessert and calling it peace, as the old Roman saying has it.

The enemy is having more success in building a global integrated air defense network against our very lethal air power in Afghanistan. Unable to shoot down our planes or avoid our planes, the enemy seeks to get world opinion to ground our planes:

These air attacks have a devastating effect on the Taliban, al Qaeda and bandits that NATO, U.S. and Afghan troops encounter. The best defense the enemy has come up with is to take shelter in a compound or building filled with civilians. But many of the civilians have come to realize how this works, and will often flee when the bad guys show up looking for a place to stay. That often results in the Taliban forcing the civilians to remain, often at gunpoint. The Taliban know that mingling with civilians will sometimes cause the Americans to not bomb, and that if they do bomb, the dead civilians are turned into powerful propaganda ("American war crimes…"), that puts more pressure on the U.S. to further tighten the ROE (Rules of Engagement, under what circumstances bombs can be dropped.)

It's gotten to the point where no bombs, or even cannon fire, are allowed if civilians are present and U.S. ground troops are not in immediate danger. In many cases, the bad guys use this opportunity (troops outside the compound, bombers overhead, civilians all about) to sneak off into the night and get away, and kill another day. The ground commander can often get permission to bomb before the target flees, but only if the right people in the chain of command (sometimes going all the way back to Washington) are awake and reachable in time. But more and more often, the bombs are not dropped, and the Taliban win another one.

So we work with the bad result of idiots who comprise "world opinion" and our forces and innocents pay for this opinion. It may not be enough to stop our planes, but it is bad for the good guys to have to operate under idiotic rules of engagement.

And as the enemy tries to keep us from killing them, our lovely domestic legal system falls prey to enemy lawfare to make it difficult to even capture them:

Last June, five Supreme Court justices dreamed up a constitutional right for aliens held as enemy combatants to challenge their wartime detention in court. Now the bitter fruits of the Boumediene decision are plain to see: In Washington, a federal judge has ordered the release — into the United States — of 17 men captured near Tora Bora after the American invasion of Afghanistan.

Can you believe this? We have an entire Homeland Security department meant to keep out men like these 17, and our federal judges have demanded we put these men inside our country!

Before this gets too ugly, why don't we release these 17 men outside that federal judge's home so those men can properly thank the judge? Ah, screw it. That's the frustration talking. We'll have to waste resources tracking these men who should be watching for unknown terrorists.

All in all, it's like "our side" doesn't want us to kill enemies or capture them. What? Is the only allowable option left surrender and submission to them?

But we'll fight within the restrictions we face because we are a nation of rules just trying to do the right thing--even when the rules are twisted against us. We'll trust our Afghan friends, refrain from dropping bombs, and follow the rulings of judges, and hopefully still win a war that our friends oppose almost as effectively as our enemies.