Saturday, December 05, 2009

The Surge Begins in Order to End

Knowing that reinforcements are on the way to Afghanistan, and perhaps seeking to exploit any enemy discouragement from hearing that 40,000 more Western troops are on the way to kill them, Marine Corps and British units with Afghans in a minor supporting role (this will need to be reversed in time) have launched an offensive:

Operation "Cobra's Anger," which involves 900 U.S. Marines and sailors, British troops and 150 Afghan soldiers and police, pushed into the Now Zad district of southern Helmand province, an insurgent stronghold depopulated after years of heavy fighting.

The advancing Marines killed several militants and seized bombs and weapons in the first day of the operation, which begin with an airborne assault on Friday, said Major Bill Pelletier, spokesman for the Marine Expeditionary Brigade in Helmand.

We're a long way from success, but we know what it looks like, because we can see it in Iraq:
Terrorist violence is down, and the attacks that are being made are using smaller and less sophisticated bombs. The terrorist groups are not doing very well. In the north, where the bombings were the worst over the last year, efforts to dry up terrorist funding (from sources in Syria and Jordan, as well as local scams, like stealing oil from pipelines and trucking it out of the country) have succeeded. ... Increased security along the Syrian border has kept out most of the terrorist volunteers (commonly used as suicide bombers). Those that are already in Iraq, finding no one to set them up for a glorious suicide bombing attack, are going home, or trying to get to Afghanistan (where there is still a demand for their skill set.)
The crime gangs that once provided services to terrorists are returning to their civilian criminal efforts.
About six months since we effectively left Iraq's cities and then formally ended our combat role in the center and south, Iraqis have managed--with setbacks that can't be helped--to continue the job our surge started.
The fight in Afghanistan will be tougher in some senses since the Taliban are better fighters than the Sunni and Shia Arab insurgents in Iraq were (and are). At some point, we will lose a platoon or even a company to a Taliban enemy assault that overruns our position. The enemy has tried and failed, but they will get lucky or we will get sufficiently sloppy--or the odds will catch up with us even if we do nothing wrong and the enemy doesn't get lucky.
But the Taliban don't have the cash that the Sunni Arab terrrorists had. Nor will the Taliban have access to the same level of technical expertise to fully replicate the IED and suicide bombing campaign that seriously rocked Iraq in 2006 and 2007.
And I doubt our press will cover the Afghanistan war with the same level of full-color video coverage that helped define Iraq in our media as a "quagmire." One, Afghanistan is more remote and more primitive--who wants to work there? Two, President Bush isn't waging the war so there is no media motive to undermine the president. And three, the legacy media is going broke and it won't want to spend the money to send the full crews there to cover the war across the country.
We need to dry up the enemy finances in Helmand, choke off the center of power in Kandahar, prevent Taliban from Pakistan from keeping the Afghanistan Taliban alive despite our efforts, and keep the more secure areas of Afghanistan free of Taliban refugees who will flee our efforts to suppress them in the south (as al Qaeda did after our assault on Fallujah in 2004 when they fled to the Mosul region). And build up national, regional, and local governing structures to prevent a political vacuum from being an invitation to the Taliban to set up shadow governments. Oh, and we need to make some economic progress to make a peaceful life of trade or farming a better option than signing up as Taliban cannon fodder for a glorious but brief career as a soldier of Allah.
Our Afghanistan surge will end, in time. Let's support a victory before that happens. Heck, we've done it already despite the best efforts of our Retreatist Americans.