News from the Front

The latest piece of military maneuvering in Afghanistan makes me wonder if they’re teaching battlefield strategy at our military academies any more.

On February 3, the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) forces (mostly NATO and US troops) operating in Afghanistan made the dubious decision of announcing, well in advance, their intentions to drive the Taliban out of Marjah, a village in southern Afghanistan.

Operation Moshtarek actually got under way on February 13, giving the Taliban occupiers of Marjah ten days to set up ambushes, booby traps, mines, entrenchments, sniper positions, and forward observation posts before the foreign devils arrived.

USMC Lt. Gen. John Paxton briefs Senate Armed Services Committee on Operation Moshtarek

It seems to have worked out well for the Taliban as relatively few (maybe 120) have been killed or captured. About 13 ISAF troops have died, so we are close to maintaining that ever-important 10 to 1 kill ratio. Also this week saw the death of the 1000th American in Afghanistan since this whole mess started 8 years ago.

ISAF troops are meeting with unusually stiff resistance. Two weeks ago they were saying it would it would take a month to clear the booby traps and mines out of Marjah. Now, it looks like it will take longer.

For civilians around Marjah, the scene is one of unremitting chaos. Hundreds have died and at least 40,000 are trapped in the midst of the fighting. Aid workers said the number civilian casualties will be unknown until health officials can move freely in the area.

Civilians who managed to survive and escape to medical care in secure areas all had the same story: their wounds were caused by shooting and bombs from “foreign soldiers.”

“There is no difference between Taliban and the civilian people. The Taliban are the rural people. They are our people,” said one victim who was moved two miles to a hospital in a wheel barrow.

“We were not unhappy with the Taliban,” said another. “The government didn’t do anything for us.”

“They shot me. They came at night. They were foreigners,” said a twelve-year-old victim. “I was outside in the field with a friend.”

So much for winning the hearts and minds.

And Operation Moshtarek seems to suffer from the same lack of long-range planning that has plagued our entire involvement in Afghanistan. After we “win,” what happens?

We can’t stay in Marjah forever and there is no question the Taliban will move right back into town when the Americans leave. Similarly, there’s no question the Taliban will move into the rest of Afghanistan when the Americans leave.

So what are we doing there in the first place?

Afghanistan represented a chance for Mr. Obama to take on one of the most questionable commitments of the Bush administration. His response has been to send another 30,000 troops with no overarching mission other than to survive until he begins withdrawing them in 2011.

He’s still yammering about health care like we give a shit.


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