Wednesday, May 16, 2007
It's no secret that the American tactical approach in Afghanistan has been, shall we say, slightly at odds with that of its NATO allies participating in the war. The Dutch, for instance, have in the past taken the approach of avoiding engagement with the Taliban insurgents, although they have recently adopted a more offensive-minded approach (even if it is known as the "amoeba model"). The British, too, have emphasized finding a working arrangement with the Taliban, going so far as to arrange a formal truce in Musa Qala, a district in southern Afghanistan they were responsible for securing.
The logic, in both cases, was to minimize the destabilizing effects of combat, both in terms of civilian casualties and infrastructure, while at the same time increasing trust and goodwill among the civilian population through reconstruction projects. As for the insurgents, the strategy was to win their allegiance, rather than kill them off.
All of which doesn't sit too well with Gen. Dan McNeill, the new American commander in Kabul:
“In its best case it might have been a tactical error. In its worst case it might have been a strategic blunder”, McNeill said of the ceasefire in Helmand province’s Musa Qala district.
He added that he could not give his full views on the British-backed truce because that “might be construed as criticizing one of our allies, and I wouldn’t do that”.
I'd sure love to hear his full views, but I think the abridged version gets the idea across pretty effectively. At any rate, he's made no secret of his favored approach, which involves more aggressive ground operations, combined with heavy air support. Resulting in, as you might imagine, increased civilian casualties.
Of course, anytime you get allies fighting a war together, you're bound to have disagreements. The history of WWII is full of them, from heads of state to theater commanders, all the way down to the grunts on the ground.
But this really shows the inability of the American military command to understand the nature of the war they're fighting. The British and Dutch know there's no way to pacify Afghanistan. It's been tried before and it's never worked. So they're trying to minimize the damage on both sides, in the hopes that the Afghans in power when they eventually leave haven't sworn an oath of eternal enmity against them.
That's the only way to win that war. And it's the one way we won't fight it.