5 years, 7 months ago
The Times gives us an update on the British plan to scale back violence against the Taliban.
BRITISH troops are to scale back attacks on the Taliban after killing 7,000 insurgents in two years of conflict, defence sources said last week …
The paratroopers’ commanders hope they can cut the deaths, which they fear are a boost for the Taliban when fighters recruited from the local population are killed, as the dead insurgent’s family then feels a debt of honour to take up arms against British soldiers.
The resultant fighting raises the profile of the Taliban and enhances their reputation in the local community.
“We aim to scale back our response to incidents to avoid getting sucked into a cycle of violence among local tribesmen,” said one officer. “This way we aim to continue the process of reducing the Taliban’s influence in Helmand.”
The army hopes that the reduction in violence will enable the Department for International Development and its American counterpart USAID to accelerate reconstruction work. British commanders have expressed frustration at the limited amount of development and the reluctance of DfID to become involved.
However, US marines and British special forces will continue attacks on high-level Taliban leaders crossing the border from Pakistan.
More than 1,000 American troops from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit will take control of the border between Helmand and Pakistan later this month. They will concentrate on providing the firepower to kill Taliban leaders as they cross the border from their base in the Pakistani city of Quetta.
The US marines will work with the British Special Forces Support Group and Special Boat Service commandos who are tracking Taliban crossing the border. They will use the firepower of their M1A1 Abrams tanks and AH-1W Cobra helicopter gunships to launch a frontal assault on the hardliners.
Ah yes, The Captain’s Journal knows it by its smell: the deep magic of counterinsurgency at its best. Fascination with special forces operators, high value targets, and personalities and leaders, along with the philosophy of “giving stuff to the people.” Sounds good, doesn’t it? There’s just one problem. The plan is all confused and won’t work.
As readers know, we have been strong proponents of giving stuff to people as part of the concerned citizens program in Iraq. But – and this is the important point - the British plan bifurcates this approach from strong military operations against the enemy, an error that wasn’t made in Iraq. Consider, for example, that the British plan in Basra was similar to the one being espoused above, with military operations being second in importance (or even suppressed due to the notion that for every indigenous insurgent killed, two more grow up in his place).
Also consider that the Marines in Anbar could have argued this way given the heavy indigenous participation in the insurgency along with some lesser number of foreigners. But the Marines neither argued nor behaved this way. The indigenous population witnessed strong military action in Anbaragainst their own blood, and grew weary of this just as much as foreign jihadist violence against them. This is another critical point that bears repeating. The Marines won in Anbar, and the British lost in Basra. The British plan being espoused for Afghanistan is roughly the same as was implemented in Basra, and diametrically opposed to the nature of operations in Anbar.
Another problem with this approach is that it presupposes that the Afghani Taliban need the leadership of Pakistani Taliban, or al Qaeda, in order to function. While the border region is certainly problematic, the British will soon find that most of the insurgents within Afghanistan are indigenous Afghanis, and that reduced violence against them leads to a strengthened Taliban.