Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Change of Tactics

American officials, prodded by Afghanis, in early August began considering a new strategy for Afghanistan. Diminishing returns argued against routine air strikes and large ground force operations. Few positive successes are apparent and the occasional mistakes (or allegations of mistakes) have raised tensions and inspired some anger against Americans. Although the two infantry brigades stationed in the country should stay to prevent al Qaeda or Taliban elements from massing to threaten the government, small scale and little-noticed special forces operations should be the main emphasis. The current situation is more police work really—with the possibility of very heavy firefights breaking, out of course, should we corner a high ranking enemy with his body guards. Our infantry brigades can back up the special forces in these cases, too.

We basically achieved our objective in Afghanistan with our attack that brought down the Taliban. Special Operations Command, it has been announced, is taking the primary mission of taking on al Qaeda leaders, leaving regulars to mop up the odds and sods left in Afghanistan and to prepare for war with Iraq. Sounds good to me. In Afghanistan, it is now primarily a manhunt for the leadership and simply killing the occasional handful of enemy foot soldiers is not worth the friction caused by lethal mistakes. We are not invaders (of Afghanistan, that is). Let’s not give anybody there any reason to doubt it.