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US unable to protect supply lines to Afganistan

John Ranalletta

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John Ranalletta

http://www.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSTRE4B60AY20081207?feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews&rpc=22&sp=true Pakistani militants set ablaze Humvees for western forces


Given no outside nation has ever prevailed in a land war in Afghanistan, is it time to leave?


If the US cannot build and maintain supply lines to the battlefront, is it worth the effort?


Is it time to leave that part of world to itself and address aggression emanating therefrom with drone/cruise missile borne tactical nukes?

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John, when I think about things like your question I keep coming back to a few lines found in Kipling's "The Naulahka":


Now it is not good for the Christian's health to hustle the Aryan brown,

For the Christian riles, and the Aryan smiles and he weareth the Christian down;

And the end of the fight is a tombstone white with the name of the late deceased,

And the epitaph drear: "A Fool lies here who tried to hustle the East."


If we try to fight a war on our terms, I think it would be the biggest demonstration of foolishness we could undertake. We must not try to fight a conventional guerrilla war (that's no longer a conflict in terms) in Afghanistan. If we go in there with the idea of a victory measured by territory held by our guys standing on it and keeping it by force of arms, we're screwed from the outset.


On the other hand, if we undertake an unconventional war, using the full range of our special ops troops, allowing them to put their various specialties to use (that is, short-term and intense conventional military actions, small unit attacks and assassinations, training of Afghan forces, and civil affairs), I think we can change the face of the conflict in our favor.


Foreign terrorists are suffered as co-religionists in the tribal lands, but that's not to say they are broadly welcomed. We must exploit that factor. Our soldiers must show the tribesmen that they are warriors by Afghan standards, worthy of the same deference extended to the foreign terrorists. When you read some of the accounts of our special ops guys and what they accomplished in the early days of that war you realize it can be done. If, as we kill terrorists, we heal the sick, build infrastructure, and don't insist on imposing our beliefs on their culture, then we can win it.


But we'll never accomplish a useful strategic end by lobbing missiles and bombs into the tribal territories. Yeah, we'll do it where we have to, but that war will be won by faces, not noise from the sky.


As to supply lines, no big deal. It's just logistics, and we do that better than any nation on earth. We'll just have a few lessons to learn on the way to establishing them. It'll probably be done mostly by air.


Overall, I think the antiterror strategy adopted by the administration is sound. That is, find terrorists wherever you can and kill them (like Afghanistan), that's tactics. You do it both because you must, to keep them occupied somewhere other than here, but also because it is a symbol to the public, theirs and ours. Strategically, though, we (the civilized nations) must destroy the breeding grounds and ultimately the terrorists themselves through the spread of democratic forms of government. For some reason, when some people hear that said they immediately think of us trying to set up forms like ours. Not so, and that's not what's happened in Iraq. Nor should it happen in Afghanistan or any other place. But we can, over time, show them how it works and the fundamentals that should go into self-governance. That consists mostly of making sure that the individual is valued, and that he has a stake in a successful outcome.





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Dave McReynolds

I would like to preface this by saying that like most folks in the US, I have been in favor of our operations in Afganistan. My only concern over the time we've been there is whether we are giving our troops enough support.


If we stay in Afganistan, and fight the battle on the terms outlined by Pilgrim, which is probably the only reasonable way to proceed, this is what will happen:


In our efforts to kill Taliban, we will kill innocent Afgans. I don't say that as an accusation, or as a reason not to do it. It is regretable, but inevitable, that as we kill Taliban, we will also kill innocent Afgans. We will do it because we mistakenly think they are Taliban, or just because they happen to be in the wrong place when the bullets or bombs start flying. The Afgans' reaction to this will determine whether we can be successful. For example, during WWII, I don't imagine the French particularly liked it when we bombed French cities and killed Frenchmen in our efforts to kill Germans, but they understood that it was necessary to do that in order to liberate their country. On the other hand, it seems like every time we kill a few innocent Afgans, it creates a huge uproar and requires a response and investigation all the way to the top command of our Army and the Afgan president. Frankly, there is no way we can win in Afganistan if everytime we kill an innocent Afgan, it causes ten or a hundred others to switch over to the side of the Taliban.


So these are the options I see:


1. Evaluate the situation to determine if the reaction of Afgans to US presence is hostile enough to snowball into ever increasing support for the Taliban as we make inevitable mistakes. If not, proceed as Pilgrim suggests, if so, then


2. Determine whether it is feasible to remain in Afganistan in logistical and training support of the government, without a direct combat role. If so, then do that, if not, then


3. Bail.

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