Wednesday, March 09, 2016

An Intention-Perception Mismatch?

Do not under-estimate the value of morale and over-estimate the quantitative measures of military power.

We need to work very hard to counter this impression of Afghan security force retreats from exposed checkpoints:

Overstretched Afghan forces are pulling back from violent southern districts without a fight, ceding key territory to the resurgent Taliban as part of an unprecedented "strategic retreat" that has stoked fears government control is slipping. ...

"Once you start pulling out troops and surrendering hard-won territory, you are basically admitting that the Taliban have won," said Mohammad Ismail, a tribal elder from Musa Qala who fled the area after government troops pulled out.

"This is a betrayal to all those who have sacrificed their lives to defend these areas over 15 years."

The intent of the retreat is to build up a reserve of troops that can go after the Taliban rather than slowly lose a war of attrition against insurgents who have the advantage of not having to hold positions day after day against shadowy enemies who strike when they feel like it.

But to avoid a self-fulfilling prophecy that begins a cascade of defeatism among government forces and supporters, we have to provide visible support to show them that the fight continues despite the visible retreats, and that this is the path to victory and not defeat.

Do recall that after we cut off support for South Vietnam, during the North Vietnamese mechanized offensive against the southern government, the Saigon government ordered a "strategic withdrawal" to consolidate their forces.

This was the correct decision on purely military grounds. The South Vietnamese ground forces were being hammered and had to do that to survive.

Unfortunately, the troop withdrawal degenerated into a rout and the collapse of the South Vietnamese military and will to resist the invasion.

The Taliban at least are not a mechanized force, meaning that any government collapse of morale might be a regional southern problem rather than a total defeat.

But it will be a victory for the Taliban requiring an Afghanistan War 2.0, on top of the Iraq War 2.0 we are fighting now, and the pending Libya War 2.0.

And then there is Cold War 2.0 in Europe.

But at least we have Pivot 1.0 in Asia. So that's new.

I'm just not feeling the tide of war receding. But that's another intention-perception mismatch.