The Taliban and Distributed Operations

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 6 months ago

John Rutherford of NBC News gives us an account from wounded in Afghanistan that is important in light of the NATO and U.S. claim among Army senior leadership that the campaign is advancing unabated in Afghanistan.

Two soldiers receiving Purple Hearts at Walter Reed Army Medical Center called Afghanistan a “forgotten war” being fought with not enough troops, supplies or support from the American people.

Army Spc. Jesse Murphree, 20, of Westminister, Colo., lost both legs to a roadside bomb on Dec. 27 in northeastern Afghanistan.

“Every day we were getting shot at,” he said in an interview after receiving his Purple Heart on Friday. “And you hear about other people in Iraq, they got shot at a couple of times. We’re like, we’ve been shot at every day.

“You start thinking you’re fighting a forgotten war, like no one’s paying attention. I went home on R&R before I got hurt and people were coming up to me, they’re like, at least you’re not in Iraq and stuff, and I was looking at them, and I was like, what? And they’d say, you don’t do, they called it battle, they’re like, you don’t do battle anymore? And I’m like, are you kidding me? Like, yeah, I do,” Spc.  Murphree said.

“I know the area our unit’s at is definitely hot and definitely feels they’re forgotten about, like the people think that Afghanistan is really not a big deal or nothing’s really going on. We still got people that are dying, we still got people that are getting hurt.”

Army Pfc. Justin Kalenits, 24, of Geneva, Ohio, who was wounded in a Nov. 9 ambush in the Waygol Valley of Afghanistan, echoed Spc. Murphree’s sentiments.

“It’s a battle,” he said. “There’s not enough troops there. Need a lot of troops. Our unit’s stretched really, really thin. There’s not enough stuff. We’re doing a lot of fighting over there. We’re getting hurt. It’s not good. So, I’d like to see it end. Definitely.”

This call for an increase in force size coheres exactly with the thrust of The Captain’s Journal over the last several months.  But there is also an indication that the Taliban have learned from their mistakes of the past.  The large size kinetic engagements are apparently a thing of the past given the kill ratio (advantage U.S.).  Instead, they are focusing on distributed operations.  Haji Hashem, chairman of Zabul provincial council, describes their tactics:

Most of the fighters are foreign, Mr. Hashem explained. “They are Chechen, Arab, Punjab from Pakistan.”

Mr. Hashem said the Taliban insurgency operates in cells of 10 to 15 that stay in radio contact across the countryside.

The tactic of suicide bombing also fits neatly into this category.  According to recent report, the Taliban are using suicide bombs as their equivalent of air power.  As a standoff weapon (except for a single fighter), it is unmatched.  Says one Taliban fighter, “It is good to be used against the non-Muslims, because they are not afraid of fighting for five days against us but they are afraid of one bomber.”

This tactic of forcing decision-making down within the organization, dispatching smaller, self-sufficient groups of fighters, and maintaining looser communication is perfectly adapted to the Afghanistan countryside, which is less about MOUT (military operations on urban terrain) than in Iraq.  This guerrilla approach to warfare requires aggressive offensive operations to root them out in their hiding places.  It also requires that U.S. forces participate in the chase.  Fire and melt-away must become less attractive to the Taliban.


You are currently reading "The Taliban and Distributed Operations", entry #1021 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,Counterinsurgency,Taliban and was published March 31st, 2008 by Herschel Smith.

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