Monday, September 28, 2015

This is a Battle to Watch

Without our air power, it is easier for the Taliban to mass and move. And it is more difficult for the Afghan forces to react and fight.

This Taliban move into Kunduz city in the north is a serious attack:

The insurgents launched a three-sided surprise offensive at around dawn, and by mid-afternoon they had hoisted their white flag over Kunduz's main square, about 200 meters from the governor's compound, according to a Reuters witness.

The witness also said battles were raging in two districts nearby.

This isn't just a district capital, which is essentially a county seat in our terms, and occasionally taken (briefly) for a TV operation. It is a provincial--like our states--capital.

Afghan forces should be able to eject the Taliban. Taliban support is sparse in the north, after all. But getting this far is a serious challenge.

In a perfect world, this is an opportunity to defeat and kill Taliban and roll up local supporters.

We should be providing persistent surveillance, troop transport, fire support, and medical evacuation support--and special forces for advice and direct action--to keep the advantage with the Afghan security forces.

I won't bother asking any more for a single US infantry brigade to act as a fire brigade for emergencies.

Afghan forces are doing well so far with minimal Western support, but Iraq shows us how bad things can get without us and how long it can take to even begin to restore the situation.

Let's defend what we won, eh?

UPDATE: Afghan forces are moving to counter-attack:

Afghan forces backed by U.S. air support battled Taliban fighters for control of the northern city of Kunduz on Tuesday, after the militants seized a provincial capital for the first time since their ouster 14 years ago.

And we provided some air support, which is good.

This is a defeat--for now--and potentially a big victory for our side if we can pound the Taliban who have massed to achieve their hopefully fleeting victory.

UPDATE: Western special forces and aircraft are assisting, along with support troops:

A senior Afghan security official said about 100 members of U.S. special forces fought off Taliban attackers threatening to breach the airport in the early hours of Wednesday.

The heavily armed troops, wearing night-vision goggles, left the airport and killed the assailants before returning, added the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

An undisclosed number of coalition troops were dispatched to Kunduz this week to support the Afghan army and police who have failed so far to retake the city from the Taliban.

"They are in a non-combat role. That said, they also maintain the right to defend," Tribus said of the coalition forces.

The help is needed. The Taliban have attacked the airport, are digging in at Kunduz, and have blocked roads leading to the city to slow down reinforcements.

On the bright side, unlike at Ramadi, we seem to be moving to counter-attack before the Taliban can really settle in and without multiple PowerPoint presentations to inspire the troops.

UPDATE: Interesting detail on how the Taliban seized the city:

The Afghan security official said the militants had slowly infiltrated Kunduz during the recent Eid festival, launching a Trojan horse attack that enabled them to capture it within hours.

Shock and awe in action.

But as I wrote, now that the Taliban are massed and holding an objective, we do have an opportunity to bring down a world of JDAM hurt on their heads.

UPDATE: The American commander in Afghanistan, General Campbell, wants American troops to remain in Afghanistan after 2016 despite the current administration plan to pull out completely:

According to U.S. officials, Campbell's options would postpone any major cuts in troop levels this year and give him more leeway on the pace of any reductions next year. The options, officials said, include keeping as many as 8,000 troops there well into next year and maintaining several thousand troops as a counterterrorism force into 2017. The options would allow for a gradual decline in troop numbers over the coming year, depending on the security conditions in Afghanistan and the capabilities of the Afghan forces, who sustained heavy combat losses this year and last.

That would seem prudent given the mess in Iraq and Syria that flowed from our premature departure from Iraq at the end of 2011.

UPDATE: The counter-attack has basically succeeded:

Afghan troops had largely recaptured the northern city of Kunduz from the Taliban early Thursday, officials and residents said, even as fighting continued in parts of the provincial capital.

The Taliban confirm they pulled out.

And thus the battle I said we had to watch is ending within the same post. Unless we manage to pursue the retreating Taliban and put their heads on pikes (figuratively, of course).

Ponder that the reconquest of Ramadi, Iraq, is still pending with Iraqi forces edging half the distance to the goal line even as we speak. Just one more PowerPoint presentation ought to do it!