Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Remain Calm, All is Well?

During the wars in Iraq, even today, news comes frequently, allowing me to get more of a "feel" for the campaign. Afghanistan has never been like that, so I never have gotten a sense of the fight and how it is going.

Sometimes I read things that worry me. And other times I read things that reassure me.

On the latter, once again the much-touted Taliban "spring offensive" is turning out to be more press release and less action:

This year’s Taliban “Spring Offensive” officially began on April 12th and accomplished its initial goal of garnering worldwide media attention and lots of FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) commentary from media pundits. Best of all the annual celebration of nationwide terror and violence masks what is really going on. Most of the organized violence in Afghanistan is made possible by the drug gangs, who use the Islamic terrorists to keep the government from interfering with drug production and distribution. The drug gangs would prefer to dispense with the Taliban and simply use bribes to keep the security forces out of the way. While that works some of the time it frequently doesn’t because the drugs are generally unpopular in Afghanistan. That is because the availability of cheap opium and heroin has turned 5-10 percent of the population into addicts. So the drug gangs need as many hired guns as they can get. The Taliban have proved to be the largest and most reliable supplier. Without the drug money the Taliban would be a nuisance in the south but nothing capable of grabbing the attention of the national or international media.

So I'll feel better until the time I read an article about Afghan security force problems, even though I know fully well that Man cannot tell, but Allah knows how much the other side was hurt.

That is, we see our problems more clearly and can mistake not seeing the other side's problems for them having no problems.

UPDATE: Of course, for a president who said he'd invade Pakistan to win the "good war" in Afghanistan and who ordered two surges of troops to fight there, this level of confusion is just depressing:

Amid fierce fighting after the Taliban captured the northern Afghan city of Kunduz last year, U.S. special forces advisers repeatedly asked their commanders how far they were allowed to go to help local troops retake the city.

They got no answer, according to witnesses interviewed in a recently declassified, heavily redacted Pentagon report that lays bare the confusion over rules of engagement governing the mission in Afghanistan. ...

But the 700-page report [on the mistake of bombarding a hospital during the Kunduz battle], much of it blacked out for security reasons, sheds light on how the rules are not fully understood, even by some troops on the ground, compromising the mission to stabilize the nation and defeat a worsening Islamist insurgency.

My, how the good war has fallen. But that change was predictable, wasn't it?

UPDATE: Oh, and that article in the first update highlights the problem of trying to treat the war against al Qaeda--which permits direct combat in an anti-terrorist fight--as separate from the war on the local Taliban who are aided by an "advise and assist" mission that does not allow our troops to conduct direct combat except in self defense.

As I recently noted, you can't unleash the tiny special forces into a country and expect results without the general purpose security forces establishing the theater environment to be conducive to special forces.

These are not, in fact, separate missions as we try to pretend.