Sunday, July 30, 2017

Afghans Need Every Advantage They Can Get

Afghanistan needs effective air power. Our premature withdrawal of that capability before Afghanistan could even begin to replace Western air power is one reason the Taliban have made gains the last several years.

This is needed:

As the U.S. administration prepares its new strategy for Afghanistan, the Kabul government and its Western allies are working hard to develop an air force that gives government forces the advantage in their war against Taliban militants.

Effective air power to provide recon and surveillance, logistics, transport, medical, strike, and close air support is needed to defeat the Taliban.

One of the effects of effective air power is that it limits the ability of the Taliban to mass troops against small outposts and limits the time Taliban can afford to attack a target before they have to retreat and scatter to avoid air power intervening decisively in the battle.

Like this Taliban assault at Khakrez:

The Taliban attacked the base overnight and killed 26 Afghan soldiers and wounded 13 more, the Ministry of Defense confirmed, according to TOLONews. Additionally, eight more soldiers are reported as missing and presumably captured by the Taliban. Fifty-seven of the 82 soldiers stationed at the base were killed, wounded or captured during the fighting.

The Afghans have to spread out to control and protect territory and the people to deny their use to the Taliban.

But the Afghan security forces can hardly afford to put a full battalion into every outpost needed for this mission.

Effective air power is an important tool to allow company-sized elements to hold off attacks until reinforcements arrive; and ultimately to make it more difficult for the Taliban to mass enough forces to overrun company outposts; and beyond that to allow Afghan forces to seize the initiative and go after the enemy to further atomize them.

We were winning the war and had the enemy on their heels. We needed to help Afghans keep the pressure on without American combat brigades in the lead.

I wanted America to provide this air power function until Afghans could provide the services. But we didn't, and I worried about what would happen if we walked away (quoting a linked article here):

No longer pinned down by U.S. air cover, Taliban fighters are attacking Afghan military posts in larger numbers with the aim of taking and holding ground, a shift from the hit-and-run strikes with posses of gunmen, explosives and suicide bombers.

And we lost the initiative and then the ground.

Although I wonder if we do Afghans a disservice by setting up a separate air force to support ground forces rather than making the air service part of their army.

We've paid the price of walking away with the job undone. Let's work the problem.

This was once the "good" war, remember?

UPDATED: Related:

According to Gen. Andrew Croft, the highest ranking U.S. Air Force officer in Iraq, the jihadists are struggling to regroup with their fragmented forces, due to coalition air power restricting one of their past battlefield strengths, the ability to move rapidly and amass fighters.

Yes. That's a nice thing to inflict on an enemy. It would be nice to do that in Afghanistan.