This Sunday's sacred ritual of Mass, bagels, and
tea with the Grumpy Old Men's Club was rudely disrupted by the headline of the
day's Washington Post: "U.S. Airstrikes Rise in Afghanistan as Fighting
Intensifies." Great, I thought; it's probably cheaper than funding a recruiting
campaign for the Taliban and lots more effective at creating new guerrillas.
Getting into the story just made the picture worse:
"As fighting in Afghanistan has intensified over the past three months,
the U.S. military has conducted 340 airstrikes there, more than twice the 160
carried out in the much higher-profile war in Iraq, according to data from the
Central Command. …
"The airstrikes appear to have increased in recent days as the United
States and its allies have launched counteroffensives against the Taliban in
the south and southeast, strafing and bombing a stronghold in Uruzgan province
and pounding an area near Khost with 500-pound bombs."
One might add, "The Taliban has expressed its thanks to
the U.S. Air Force for greatly increasing its popular support in the bombed
At present, the bombing is largely tied to the latest Somme-like
"Big Push," Operation Mountain Thrust, in which more than 10,000 U.S.-led
troops are trying another failed approach to guerrilla war, the sweep. I have
no doubt it would break the Mullah Omar Line, if it existed, which it doesn't.
Even the Brits seem to have drunk the Kool-Aid this time, with the June 19 Washington
Times reporting that "British commanders declared for the first time
yesterday that their troops were enjoying success in the restive south of Afghanistan
after pushing faster than expected into rebel territory." Should be in
Berlin by September, old chap.
Of course, all this is accompanied by claims of many dead Taliban, who are
conveniently interchangeable with dead locals who weren't Taliban. Bombing from
the air is the best way to drive up the body count, because you don't even have
to count bodies; you just make estimates based on the claimed effectiveness
of your weapons, and feed them to ever gullible reporters. By the time Operation
Mountain Thrust is done thrusting into mountains, we should have killed the
Taliban several times over.
Icing this particular cake is a strategic misconception of the nature of the
Afghan war that only American generals could swallow. According to the same
"U.S. officials say the activity is a response to an increasingly aggressive
Taliban, whose leaders realize that long-term trends are against them as them
as the power of the Afghan central government grows.
"'I think the Taliban realize they have a window to act,' Army Maj.
Gen. Benjamin Freakley, commander of the 22,000 U.S. troops in the country,
said in a recent interview. 'The enemy is working against a window that he knows
Except that the power of the U.S.-created Afghan government
is receding, not growing, and the Taliban's "window" only closes when
Christ comes again.
Aargh! The last time a nation's civilian and military leadership was this incapable
of learning from experience was under the Ching dynasty.
Perhaps it's time to offer a short refresher course in
Guerrilla War 101:
- Air power works against you, not for you. It kills lots of people who weren't
your enemy, recruiting their relatives, friends, and fellow tribesmen to become
your enemies. In this kind of war, bombers are as useful as 42 cm. siege mortars.
- Big, noisy, offensives, launched with lots of warning, achieve nothing.
The enemy just goes to ground while you pass on through, and he's still there
when you leave. Big Pushes are the opposite of the "ink blot" strategy,
which is the only thing that works, when anything can.
- Putting the Big Push together with lots of bombing in Afghanistan's Pashtun
country means we end up fighting most if not all of the Pashtun. In Afghan
wars, the Pashtun always win in the end.
- Quisling governments fail because they cannot achieve legitimacy.
- You need closure, but your guerilla enemy doesn't. He not only can fight
until Doomsday, he intends to do just that – if not you, then someone else.
- The bigger the operations you have to undertake, the more surely your enemy
The June 19 Washington Times also reported that
"The ambassador from Afghanistan traveled to America's heartland to
promote his war-torn country as the 'heart of Asia' and a good place to do business.
"In his region, 'all roads lead to Afghanistan,' he said…"
Asia doesn't have any heart, and Afghanistan doesn't have any
roads, not even one we can follow to get out.