Saturday, May 22, 2010

Respect the Capabilities of Our Enemies

The Taliban attacked our base at Kandahar today.

The Taliban have mostly resorted to roadside bombs to attack our units since direct attacks are fairly suicidal. Even the high profile attack on our Bagram air base a few days ago failed and we pursued the enemy to hunt them down.

So the enemy attack at Kandahar is a bit puzzling:

Insurgents firing rockets, mortars and automatic weapons launched a ground assault Saturday against NATO's biggest base in southern Afghanistan, wounding several coalition troops and civilian employees in the second such attack on a major military installation this week, officials said.

A Canadian Press news agency report from the Kandahar Air Field said artillery and machine gun fire reverberated through the base, about 300 miles (500 kilometers) southwest of Kabul, several hours after the attack began. Militants unleashed rockets and mortars about 8 p.m. (15:30 GMT) and then tried unsuccessfully to storm the northern perimeter, officials said.

They aren't going to penetrate our defenses--at least not for long. The enemy will suffer heavy casualties if they stand and fight. Especially if we pursue them. Is the act of attacking a base enough of a propaganda victory for the enemy? The enemy, I have to believe, knows by now that such direct attacks won't work out for them. So why the attacks on our bases?

I worry that the enemy might be trying to draw our pursuit to ambush our troops outside the base. Wiping out an American platoon would be a propaganda victory for the enemy.

We need to pursue the enemy when they attack our units or bases to make them pay a high price for coming out in the open. But we must be careful we don't assume that advancing outside the wire when the enemy retreats is always "pursuit" rather than a trap. We're better than they are. But we should never underestimate them.