Friday, June 21, 2013

Good Enough So Far

My objectives for Afghanistan have never been high. I just want the place to keep jihadis who want to kill us from establishing safe havens again. Afghanistan is too far from the center of the Moslem world (unlike Iraq) to be much use as an example of success to justify efforts to achieve more. So far the Taliban don't look like they can shoot their way back into power. We will defend our gains here, right?

Strategypage assesses the failure of the Taliban Spring Offensive so far, as American and Western forces watch in a supporting role while Afghan forces bear the brunt of the direct fight:

The Taliban declared the start of the Spring Offensive in early May. This one was supposed to be different from the failed efforts over the last six years. A Spring Offensive has come to mean, in reality, five months of the Taliban killing civilians and the security forces and foreign troops killing a lot of Taliban. This year the Taliban boasted that it would be different, with fewer civilians and more Afghan police and soldiers killed. So far it’s more of the same, with even more civilian casualties from Taliban attacks. These civilian losses were up 20-30 percent this year over last year. So far the Taliban have killed more police but have in turned suffered more losses themselves. It appears that this year’s Spring Offensive will be as much of a flop as the last six were.

Most Afghans ignore the Taliban and their talk of another Spring Offensive. That’s because most of the Taliban activity occurs in two (Kandahar and Helmand) of the 34 provinces. Some 40 percent of the Taliban violence is in ten Kandahar and Helmand districts (out of 398 in the entire country). Why that concentration of Taliban activity? It’s because of the heroin. The Taliban put most of their effort into protecting the districts where some 90 percent of the heroin in Afghanistan is produced. The other areas cursed with Taliban presence are ones that smuggling routes (to get the heroin to the outside world) go through.

So even without our planned offensive in Regional Command East last year, we seem to be doing well enough in our efforts to turn over responsibilities to Afghans.

If we maintain enough troops to provide needed support functions to the Afghans and enough special forces to go after the toughest targets, we'll be fine. I'd like a single combat brigade as the ultimate reserve force, too, but I doubt I'll get that insurance policy.