The original was whipped out in a day.† As of 17 / 10 / 01, Iíve added some new material to keep up with some additional information Iíve collected, however the essence has not changed.† This is being provided for completeness, as my opinions have changed somewhat since the beginning of Enduring Freedom.† See the Columns sub-site† section for my current thoughts.

The United States vs. Afghanistan, Can We Win?

By Noah - 17 / 9 / 01


1)     Introduction

2)     The Players

3)     Objectives of the Main Players

4)     History

5)     Tools of the Trade

6)     Tactics and Strategy

7)     What to do?


1) Introduction††††

"When news of war is proclaimed, wisdom is thrust aside." - Quintus Ennius, Roman Poet

"The beginning of a war is like opening a door into a dark room." - Adolf Hitler

This paper will address significant issues regarding the stated desire of the Bush administration to pursue its Afghani political goals by military means.† On the surface, these issues appear to be straightforward, and the prowess of the American military unquestioned.† A more thorough analysis reveals several significant issues surrounding the use of force in this theatre. This paper was created using information from public media sources, private intelligence services, military research materials, military officer training manuals, and theoretical texts.† All factual information has been verified to the best of the authorís ability. Please report any discrepancies to the author at . All inferences and conclusions are my own.††††

2) The Players†††

United States.† The United States, by most measures, is the worlds most advanced industrial economy, as well as the largest.† It possesses the most powerful military establishment in the world.† Its smallest service, the Marines, is larger than the militaries of 85% of the worldís countries.† The US Navy is twice as large as all of the worlds navies combined, and has a force projection ability unrivaled in the world.† The US Air Force possesses strike capability to any point on earth, and can perform bombing missions from CONUS (continental US) sites to the other side of the earth as a single mission (non-stop service).† The US Army can field land formations that are, division to division, currently unstoppable by any other force on earth.† In Somalia, regarded as a military loss by civilian observers, was a victory for US forces.† A platoon strength (25 men) unit encountered in a meeting engagement (a uncontrolled meeting of opposing forces, the most dangerous type of engagement) / ambush, a battalion (650 - 800 men) strength unit of enemy forces.† In the ensuing battle the US platoon lost 18 men and continued to engage in offensive operations until relieved.† The Somali forces lost around 400 men killed with additional wounded, resulting in the disintegration of the entire formation (a ~ 25:1 attacker to defender ratio, unheard of for the attacker to lose).† By all accounts, the US force structure is unstoppable in a conventional war.† US CENTCOM (the same command that was responsible for the war against Iraq) is in charge of the Afghani theatre of operations.†††† ††††

Afghanistan.† The Afghani regime presides over one of the poorest nations on earth.† Outside of the cities, the country is described as being in the 11th century.† Only 12% of the population has access to clean drinking water (mostly those in the cities).† Due to the Russian / Afghani war (1979 - 1989) over 20 million anti-personnel land mines litter the landscape.† Afghani children are taught how to shoot at the age of 5, and typical games involve shooting across valleys at playmates ears to see how close one can get without blowing the others head off.† Players also compete in goat shooting contests, with each contestant getting one shot.† The goat is tethered to a tree 1,000 yards away - the game is usually won by the time one or two have had a chance to play.† This universal, long-term training in sniping was a constant and unsolvable problem to Russian units during the war.† It is worthwhile to note that with the exception of the Mongols (~1250), which pursued a consistent policy of massive political terror and genocide, no one has ever won a conflict with the Afghani tribes.†††† ††††

Pakistan.† Pakistan's military government has long been an ally of the United States in this part of the world.† This stems from the rivalry between Pakistan and India, stemming from partition of the country by Britain after the fall of the British Empire after WWII.† India entered into a de facto alliance with Moscow in the 1970's, and the United States was a logical partner for Pakistan.† Ironically, due to a war between India and China over the Kashmir issue, China also picked Pakistan as an ally.† This has lead to Pakistan receiving aid, military and otherwise, from both countries.† Due to atomic bomb tests, and the development of the M-11 short-range (~ 150 miles) nuclear capable missile system, the United States suspended aid to Pakistan in 1998.† This has severely impacted the Pakistani military, due to the lack of spare parts and continued training from the United States, cannot keep important systems available for any conflict with India.† The British never completely severed ties with the regime, and currently have 20,000 SAS troops with experience in the area, and many advisors in place.†††† ††††

Iran.†† Iran has always viewed itself as the leader of the Islamic world, and it desires to regain this place after 20 hard years.† After dramatically severing ties with the west in the 1979 revolution, Iran had many problems to contend with.† Lack of access to American spare parts and military and economic assistance (the position Pakistan is in now), placed the regime in a bind.† But with a well educated military, professional leaders, and technicians, they felt they could rebuild and regain influence in a short while. †Events proved them wrong.† In 1980, taking advantage of Iranian weakness, Iraq launched a major assault to gain control of the strategic Arvand Rood, thus gaining control of the Khuzestan's oil fields, and establishing a puppet government in the occupied territories of Iran.† The war lasted 8 years.† It included terror bombing of population centers with IRBM's (Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles) and the use of WMD (weapons of mass destruction) by both sides.† By the end of the war, the Iranians were reduced to using human wave attacks of 11 - 12 year old boys to repel the Iraqi's.† In 1988, Saddam had had enough.† He withdrew, and spent the next several years rebuilding for the invasion of Kuwait.† The war was devastating to the Iranians, and they had no love lost for their former opponents with the American destruction of a large portion of Iraqi military forces in 1991.† The problem of Iranian desire for revenge and a restoration of traditional regional power, was one reason why Saddam was not overthrown by US forces.† The catastrophic collapse of the country would leave a power vacuum in the Middle East that Iran would have to fill.† A similar problem exists with Afghanistan.†††† ††††

Russia.† Poor Russia.† As the collapse of the Soviet Empire left only gangsters as experienced capitalists, the country is obviously beset with a plethora of social and economic problems.† The military is faced with widespread civil disobedience to the draft, and reports of "grandmother parties" venturing down to Chechnya to reclaim their grandsons are commonplace.† Desertion, bad equipment, lack of spares, poor logistics, ineffective training, and rampant drug use and alcoholism - just for starters - have sapped its fighting strength.† Russia has had problems with all of the peoples in the region for all of modern history (at least 500 years), and the Soviet Union viewed it enough of a problem to launch a major war in Afghanistan in 1980 (see history).† Russia would most likely enjoy any solution to this festering problem, however domestic political concerns about cozying up to the Americans must be taken into account.† ††††

3) Objectives of the Main Players†††

United States.† The United States regards the present conflict as asymmetric warfare by the government of Afghanistan and their erstwhile guest Osima bin Laden.† The US desires to capture or kill bin Laden, and destroy his organization.† The US also wishes to remove the Taliban government, and replace it with a quasi-independent puppet government, much like was done with the invasion of Panama in 1989.† Further widening of the war is probably not desired by the US government, who correctly fears being drawn into a global scale conflict with the entire Middle East.† This is in contrast to the stated objective of "eliminating terrorism" in Afghanistan, which is probably not a realistic goal.† This is the impetus behind the globalization of the conflict under the auspices of the UN.† As in the Gulf War, it is hoped that this will keep the other belligerents in the region from being counterproductive.† No one expects active cooperation from any of the regional actors, with the possible exception of Pakistan.†††† ††††

Afghanistan.† Beyond it's goals of eliminating United States and other infidel forces from the holy land of Saudi Arabia, Israel, and halting the continued subjugation of Iraq, the Taliban wish to continue to exist as a state.† Given the current US rhetoric, this seems unlikely.† The Taliban will probably give a vigorous defense of Kandahar (their spiritual capital) and Kabul (their political capital), for political reasons.† After their loss, they will then withdrawal into the hills to continue to campaign with a guerilla war, much like their war against Russia or the current Chechnya (Taliban supplied) conflict.† Remember the US revolutionary war was won with guerilla fighters in the hills against massed British troops marching around from town to town.† Not to liken them to our revolutionary hero's, but the dynamics are the same.†††† ††††

Pakistan.† Pakistan is in a terrible position.† It is very difficult to walk the middle ground during a war.† This, however, is exactly what it must do.† Pakistani cooperation with the US is based on a renewal of the important military and economic ties severed because of the nuclear tests.† Despite US rhetoric demanding unconditional cooperation, this is probably taking place.† However, there is a very important wild card, the people who actually live there.† There are 3 million Afghani refugees in Pakistan, and the citizens of the country empathize with their plight.† There is much public support for the Taliban, which are seen as a bulwark to US global domination, and a powerful moral and religious force.† Three issues are paramount.† First, Pakistani assistance to US (or coalition) forces, may create civil unrest bordering on, or more accurately, fomenting a civil war.† This event occurring while US forces are in theatre will result in a insecure rear area.† Such a situation would be disastrous for all concerned, and would pull the US into a situation much like Vietnam.† In Vietnam, US forces also engaged in offensive operations against a guerilla enemy, while being denied a secure rear, much to our detriment.† Second, the rebels might actually win, resulting in hostile elements possibly gaining control of short range nuclear missiles, and attacking the rear of US forces unhindered.† This involves the US in a Pakistani civil war also - however we would be the primary combatant.† Third, the rebels might not attack the regime itself, but attempt to destabilize the government by trying to start a war with India by fomenting large scale unrest in Kashmir.† This is a war with nuclear consequences.† With US forces in theatre, such a situation could quickly escalate with unforeseeable results.† (News just in, after I wrote this, radical groups have declared their intention to overthrow the government if assistance takes place.† Score one for me.)†††† ††††

Iran.† Iran has been in an intense rivalry with the Taliban since their consolidation of the country.† Both have desires to lead the Islamic world, and the central Asian region, a role traditionally held by Iran.† Regardless of the nascent warming of relations between the US and Iran, the political problems involved will ensure no direct Iranian involvement.† Iran will most likely bide its time, and reap the benefits of having a regional rival destroyed, like Iraq was in the Gulf War.† This will become a future problem for the US, unless rapprochement with the Iranian regime is aggressively pursued.† Being Persian, rather than Arab, the US has seen them as a natural ally for many years.†††† ††††

Russia.† The Russian establishment is in disarray.† Statements at this point range from passive cooperation, to assistance with front line combat troops in an invasion.† Time will tell, but we can expect to see a measure of active assistance to any military action.† Russia has had a problem with Islamic extremists (known as bandits to them) for around 50 years (the very recent past for this part of the world).† During the Russia / Afghani war, Russia had to remove troops drawn from the surrounding SSR's (states), who found they had more in common with their Afghani opponents than their Slav masters.† With the dissolution of the Soviet Empire, Russia has been in a extremely paranoid mood toward northern expansion of Islamic extremism.† This explains the war in Chechnya - regardless of Russian losses, the Russians simply will not withdrawal.† They would love to see Afghanistan put out of action for another 10 years, and if that means the Americans will be mired in a unsolvable conflict trying to keep their puppet regime together, so much the better.††††

4) History††††

Any analysis of this conflict must include a discussion of the Russian / Afghani war.† While a more in depth study of the history of the Afghani state over the past thousand years is very instructive, it is beyond this papers scope.† The web contains several places to read about this topic, however a concise and relevant timeline can be found in "A Quick & Dirty Guide to War" (ISBN 0-688-06256-3) by James F. Dunnigan and Austin Bay.† Mr. Dunnigan, a intelligence analyst, is noted for his perfect calling of the Gulf War at a time when other pundits were predicting disaster.† I recommend all of his works.†††† †††† The Russian invasion of Afghanistan was motivated to prevent constituent SSR's in the southern Soviet Union from breaking away and joining what was becoming an area of wide upheaval.† While the Soviets did not appreciate a United States client state (Iran) in the Persian Gulf, it was better than the alternative.† Anticipating the coming Iranian revolution, Moscow was horrified at the prospects.† Given a Iranian population of around 65 million armed with modern American weapons, and a Afghani population of around 20 million dirt poor peasants, the choice was clear.† In September of 1979 their plan was put into place.†††† ††††

The primary group to resist were the Pushtuns, the largest tribal group, and the one that now comprises the Taliban.† The "Little Satan", Russia, was immediately plunged into a large scale guerilla war.† Kabul was captured in a elegantly executed sneak attack and taken almost immediately.† Unlike Western countries where control of the cities provides effective political control, the Russians had to take the guerillas on directly.† Let's take a look at what the Russians tried.† They had 3 choices - (from Dunnigan & Bay)†††† ††††

1) Drive more mujahadeen into Pakistan, which is fine with the Russians.†††† ††††

2)† Fail miserably because the mujahadeen are tough enough to take it.†††† ††††

3)† Or kill so many people and starve the rest that the insurgency withers.† This is called genocide.†††† ††††

The Russians took the third option.† This solution, due to war fever, seems rather attractive to many in the US right now.† Let's take a look at what Russian scorched earth tactics accomplished.†††† ††††

The Russians deployed their 40th Army - 100,000 + ground troops.† With air support and logistics, 135,000.† With support troops and MVD (internal security forces), around 175,000.† This is 9 (out of 50) category 1 (top of the line) divisions possessed by the Soviet Union.†††† †††† There were ~15,000 villages in the country.† They destroyed 5,000.† By destroy, I mean they burned the fields, destroyed food caches, and killed all the livestock the carpet bombing missed.†††† ††††

With carpet bombings lack of effectiveness, Russia turned to WMD.† Large scale use of chemical weapons were used, much like Iraqi attacks on Kurds in northern Iraq.†††††

Both the Russians and the Afghani's felt that Pakistan was the key.† Pakistan is the logistical base of the Pushtuns (Taliban).† For Russia to win they would have to close the border.† The border is not controlled by the Pakistani government, it is controlled by the various bordering tribes.† The tribes move small mule trains through narrow passes to replenish supplies.† It is to most observers unsealable without a massive military invasion of the entire mountainous border region.†††††

To restrict movement of an enemy that moved largely on its feet, Russia dropped more than 20 million anti-personnel mines to blow off feet and hooves.† In a country with no access to medical care, such wounds not only slowed down the group, they were often fatal.†††† ††††

To ensure that a new generation of Afghani's would not grow up to fight them, they dropped the infamous "dolly bombs".† These were small anti-personnel mines shaped like pens, or dolls, or other shiny trinkets, that children would pick up and play with.† They can be handled for a while, but at some point they explode.† If you don't have a right arm, you can't fire a gun at any Russians.†††† ††††

When these tactics failed, the Russians attempted to pour in more troops.† However, Afghanistan has no railroads, and few surface roads.† The large scale of the destruction (effectively bombing what modern items, like bridges, into dust) worked against them.† With no infrastructure, it is impossible to conduct large scale operations with any hope of success.† They estimated they would have to triple their commitment to 305,000 ground troops (~425,000 total) to win.† They were unable to place that many in theatre, due to infrastructure problems, some of which were caused by their own campaign.† This is similar to the problems the Wehrmacht faced during its invasion of the Soviet Union in WWII.†††† ††††

What did it all accomplish?†††† ††††

~22,000 dead Russians.†

~75,000 wounded.††††

~90,000 dead Afghani's.

~90,000 wounded. (Dead soldiers due to enemy action).††††

~ 10% of the total population killed.††††

~ 13.5% of the male population killed.††††

This provides a figure of ~ 1.5 million killed overall.††††

~ 6 million refugees (to Pakistan, Iran, Uzbekistan, etc.)††††

80% killed by air attacks (favored by the US).††††

$50 Billion USD in damage to Afghanistan. (1/3 - 1/2 the net worth of the country)

Agricultural production reduced by 50%.††††

50% of livestock killed.††††

70% of paved roads were destroyed.††††

Russian costs (in 1986 dollars) were ~20 Billion USD / yr††††

Russian costs were 10% of their entire military industrial complex.†††† ††††

And they lost.† After 10 years of war, the Russians were forced out.† The puppet government the Russians left in their place fell within 6 months.†††† ††††

The last time the United States had to fight against a guerilla force, in Vietnam, front line combat troops did not fare well.† They could meet and defeat any large scale formations of NVA (with a 100% success rate), but had a hard time operating against small roving bands of Vietcong.† Without a secure rear in Afghanistan or Pakistan, this analogy becomes a bit more disturbing.††††

5) Tools of the Trade ††††

United States.† The United States has a plethora of weapons available to use in a conflict.† Rather than go into all of them here, I'll gloss over a few that you'll hear about in the coming weeks.† I will make the assumption that we will place ground forces in theatre.†††† ††††

CENTCOM, the same command that was given responsibility for the Persian Gulf War, has control over events occurring in Afghanistan and Pakistan among others.† It has first dibs on Diego Garcia, a small isle around 2,250 miles from the theatre.† Pre-positioned are fresh stocks for an Army division, and a complete outfit for a Marine MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit), which can make forced landings with landing craft on enemy shores.† If Pakistan is unable or unwilling to cooperate, these might be used to make a beachhead from which we could transit to Afghanistan.† I consider that to be a very low probability, due to the political considerations that would be involved. †Entrance would more likely be through friendly former Soviet SSR's (Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, etc.).† Millions of US aid and our friendship could go a long way in these other impoverished, and previously completely ignored corners of the world.†††† † †††

United Sates Navy CVN's (Nuclear Aircraft Carriers) are the primary force projection force available.† As in the Gulf War, we could place 6 carriers on station in the Indian Ocean, however removal of the US 6th fleet in the Mediterranean might be tricky.† It was used in place during the Gulf War, and may be farther (especially with having to fly around many countries airspace) than planners would like.† A possible solution would be for the British to relieve the 6th fleet, freeing them for service.† With the current Israeli situation, this may prove to be problematic.†††† ††††

CVN's have F-14 and F-18 combat aircraft with sufficient range to cover the entire country.† They also possess E-2C's as airborne warning and battlespace control platforms (similar to AWACS).† Tomahawk cruise missiles also have range (1,000 miles) for all but the extreme northern tip of the country, when standoff distance (at least 250 miles) for a CVN from the coast is taken into account.† CVN's travel with a battle group which adds to this long range combat power.†††† ††††

B-1-B and B-52 bombers can be flown from Diego Garcia.† They can carry 500 lb bombs, 2,000 lb bombs (B52 only) or the current range of CBU 87/89/97 cluster bombs.† These sort of munitions will be important for eliminating ground troops dispersed over a large area.† These sort of bombs will most likely be used to target bin Laden.† They will kill any exposed individual, or destroy normal cars and trucks along with most light armored vehicles.†††† ††††

Aircraft require at least 2 weeks to emplace in theatre (i.e. F-15's flying from within the country).† If complete construction of an airbase is required, this time stretches to 6 weeks or more (possibly much more), especially when we consider it is being constructed in enemy territory.† Splitting the difference at around 4 weeks for capturing an airport and converting it for military operations is about right.† The risks may be more than the benefits.† Don't expect forward placement such as this to be used, unless massive commitment by the Western powers happens.†††† ††††

If troops are placed in theatre, and we decide to go in big (not *necessarily* a possibility) expect to see the M1A1 / M1A2 MBT (Main Battle Tank) of Gulf War fame, and the MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System).†††† ††††

The MLRS is a dangerous weapon, and is probably going to be used extensively to support ground operations of any type.† They can be tasked to fire within 2 minutes (6 is more realistic), and are known as the "grid exterminator".† This name come from the fact that they kill any object within a 1 km military map grid square.† They fire M77 rockets, 6 at a time, which carry the same cluster munitions as the bombers, but due to their rapid reaction speed can respond to a call for assistance much faster.† These will be of help in reacting to guerilla attacks against US forces.† They have a 20 mile range, which means they will have to be relatively close to the front, and most likely supported with some type of escort.†††† †††† ††††

Afghanistan.† Afghanistan doesn't have much of what could be considered a conventional military.† Russia provided the puppet government over 500 T-55 and T-62 tanks to protect itself.† The T-55 is the most widely used tank of all time.† Top speed 31 mph, 340 mile range. -4 degree declination of the turret makes it bad for use in the hills (you can't shoot down at anybody).† Afghani's use it for fire support against other tribes, as opposed to massed use in unit actions (usually).† The T-62 is more modern (although limited in number compared with the T-55), and is capable of using first / second generation night vision equipment.† These tanks could not damage M1A1 armor, and M1A1's were capable of punching through whole hulls and striking tanks on the other side, during the Gulf War.† Besides these tanks, and scattered artillery, the Afghani army and rebel groups consist of AK-47 / AK-74, and Enfield bolt action rifles.† These are not as bad as they might otherwise sound, as they are employed as sniper rifles against exposed troops.† The only other wild card is SCUD missiles.† These inaccurate missiles could possibly be loaded with WMD (chemical) and fired against US rear areas, where their poor accuracy wouldn't work against them too terribly.† However, even the Afghani's realize that second use of a WMD (the first being the 767's and a 757), would certainly result in nuclear retaliation.† If the government is suicidal, and withdrawn to the hills however, this may possibly be a political ploy to maneuver the US into a geopolitical quagmire.† You just never know.

6) Tactics and Strategy

†††† †††† Let me say first and foremost, that given the above information we would badly served going in with a full ground invasion.† This was my first instinct, but as I researched more I found there were many problems.† I still feel this is what the US *might* do.† Political reasons may outweigh purely military considerations.† We shall see.† Intelligence will be severely hampered, regardless of the fact that the US can capture all enemy radiated communications.† The US lacks trained linguists to keep up with all the decoded message traffic.† Don't discount this fact, the Japanese in WWII were stymied by the use of Navaho by American forces.† These gaps can come back to bite you.†††† †††† ††††

United States.† The US will come in with heavy air assaults, concentrating on Kabul and Kandahar.† These will serve to alert the population that we are sufficiently distressed, and increase general confusion.† Unlike the Russians desires, massive refugee movement towards Pakistan will prove to be problematic.† This may well be a severe problem for Pakistan, and could cause a massive geopolitical problem (see above).† Current media reports indicate the Taliban is attempting to keep the border closed, probably to keep vital military supply lines open, and to prevent destabilization of their own power structure in Pakistan.† Second, US units will establish forward supply stations within the theatre to support infantry divisions, possibly at Herat (in the northwest) or conceivably Kandahar.† These supply areas will form a "rear" area that will construct small airstrips for landing additional supplies.† Third, the US will move in 101st airborne, 82nd airborne, or possibly the 26th MEU.† Possibly all three in different locations around the western portion of the country.† These will center around Herat, in the Northwest, Deleram in the southwest, and Kandahar in the south.† Attached will be traditional commando units to move against non-traditional bases in the hills.† These small units will form the primary means, along with heavy artillery and air support, of striking at bin Laden's followers ensconced in the hills.† The other units are to keep a secure rear secure.† These southern strikes will move against all of bin Laden's forces based in the south, and enforce control of road travel necessary to restrict guerilla fighter movements.† If a strike towards Kabul is necessary (probably politically rather than militarily), it will necessarily to have control of Khyber pass, which could be tricky.† Without 24 hour air support with artillery (like the MLRS) this region is almost impossible to control.† It would also require a large ground force to control the territory.† In addition, opening up this pass obviously involves the Pakistani's, and this might not be possible for domestic Pakistani political considerations.† The other alternative is up front Russian cooperation, and assistance in making a move from the north, starting at Marzar-e-Sharif.† This is a Taliban center, after the defeat of the Northern alliance here in late 1998.† Taking the town effectively provides control of the central north region of the country.† The Northern Alliance is problematic.† Their help would be appreciated, however the mujahadeen were allies with the Northern Alliance during the war against Russia (that is a simplification, but internal Afghani politics are Byzantine).† Make no mistake, their strike against Kabul on the day of the bombing was a message to the US.† "We are your friends.† Help us defeat the evil Taliban."† However, there is no certainty that once in power they will act any differently.† Given the amazing short-sightedness of American foreign policy for at least the past 100 years, be certain these will be the people we support.† For good or for ill.†††† ††††

Afghanistan.† Remember the Russians.† The last war against an invading power worked well.† Well, at least the Afghani's weren't conquered.† Poverty on a vast scale makes the population indifferent to begin with.† You can't squeeze blood from a turnip, and you can't take 1/2 of nothing from nothing.† The Afghani's are used to warfare, whether it's invaders or their own people.† Killing whole villages only makes them madder than they were before.† From Dunnigan - "One can almost hear a tribal leader elder saying something to the effect that 'my granddaddy didn't let them flatlanders into these here hills.† I ain't neither.'"† The Afghani's move in small 20 person groups (one platoon).† Using hit and run tactics, they kill exposed troops, and immediately disengage to avoid heavy fire.† Troops typically fight for a number of days, and then go back to civilian occupations, fulfilling their duty defending the country, and getting their lives in order.† This again provides a Vietnam analogy, with the combatants blending into the scenery.† More importantly than all of this, comes the basic Anarchist argument that a purely Anarchist society can never be conquered by outside forces.† And do understand, Afghanistan is anarchic.† The government controls the cities, outside of them the tribes mind their own business.† The Afghani's do not require, or need, orders from a higher authority to initiate offensive operations.† The individual tribes decide who to send, when to send, and the scope of the operation.† This makes traditional tactics, oriented on command and control and intelligence, useless.† The individual tribes know what is going on around them, and decide if and when they are going to strike.†††† ††††

This provides a special problem for Western forces.† Iraqi forces (the last large scale operation) provided nice, easy targets to hit.† The Afghani's have none.† Where do you focus operations to attack an enemy that has no rear, no command and control?† This is where the operation does divorce itself from the Vietnam war.† Vietnam had a controlling center to negotiate with, if nothing else.† Afghanistan has nothing but hillbillies, who desire nothing more than you to leave.† This precedes politics, religion, and any other considerations.

7) What to do?

First and foremost should be to restrain the objectives of the war.† Eliminating terrorism completely will never be achieved.† Even if we remove middle eastern terrorism with a WWII style attack on Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Lebanon, Yemen, and others I've forgotten to name (not allies, dear Lord! - Saudi Arabia???), we will have to deal with western terrorism.† Israel commits terrorism to the Palestinians according to Islamic eyes, and terrorism continues this day in Northern Ireland.† Domestic terrorism in the United States is a problem, with the MOVE house in Philly, Waco in Texas, and Ruby Ridge in Idaho in recent memory on the governments side.† The terrorists have Oklahoma, quite a monument to unrestrained anger as well.†††† ††††

The primary objective should be to eliminate bin Laden.† Second, the removal from power of the Taliban.† Third, the destruction of areas favoured by the Pushtuns for military bases and natural power bases.† Massive destruction of the only areas of civilization within the country are counterproductive to the war effort, and would only hamper the new government from coming in and taking power.† In addition, there is probably a lot of goodwill that could conceivably be obtained by the American Army, the only "kind and decent" force that has fought these people in 1,000 years.† I am reminded by a paragraph in "On Killing" by Lt. Col. Grossman (a great book if you ever get a chance to read it, it will change you view on humanity - I am happy to say for the better) that talks about how students at the US War College were making jokes about White Phosphorous.† The Geneva Convention disallows for the use of White Phosphorous on enemy troops, it being capable of inflicting hideous burns on exposed soldiers.† The students said, to contravene the Convention, they would call it down on enemy equipment instead!† Lt. Col. Grossman recalls that it was never explained to him why the American Armed Forces never used such tactics.† He recalls a further exchange that he learned from a WWII vet, which I paraphrase here (I don't have the book on me) "My grandfather fought the Americans in WWI and he gave me this advice.† Fight well, fight hard, and surrender to the first American you see."† This advice is good, and known the world over.† When we meet others in battle, our opponents know we will provide them quarter, we will accept them as prisoners and treat them well.† We will never use such things in battle to subject them to terrible destruction (like White Phosphorous).† Other nations shoot them, or force them to work in horrific labor camps when they are captured (Russians to the Germans in WWII).† In the Gulf War, we noticed that we were feeding prisoners pork.† We stopped as soon as was possible, and shipped pork free products to respect the sensibilities of our PRISIONERS.† This ability, unknown among all belligerents in the modern world may work to our advantage.† It encourages submission, not a fight to the death.† The Afghani's may come to understand we are taking vengeance on the Taliban, not them personally, and allow us to have at it in relative peace.†††† ††††

If not, and we decide on wiping out the Taliban, expect a WWII war, with complete de-Nazification of the country.† Are you willing?†††† ††††

The Russians killed 10% of the population, are you willing to go 20%? You know that they wiped out 50% of the economy, we are Americans after all, are you willing to go in to rebuild it?† Do you think that any Western Liberal Democracy can go into a impoverished nation and kill damn near everyone we can find?† Sure, when against our own (Nazi's in WWII, for example) we can get the courage.† Their drifting from the path is inexcusable, but a bunch of downtrodden peasants?† They have a few good reasons to hate us.† I'm not providing justification for the horrible acts in NYC, but God and Justice is always on your side.† Or was that just the side with the biggest guns?

Don't get me wrong - kill the son of a bitch.† Better yet, kill his followers (Army?) and bring him back in chains to stand before a US court of Justice.† Let him be an example of US might and vengeance.† Let him rot in a hole in Colorado, Supermax, where the rest of those evil bastards we've caught lie.† Kill the Taliban and put someone else in charge.† The ensuing civil war will keep them occupied for another 10 years or so, at least.† Next time they begin acting up, show pictures of his gaunt face and shaven beard and hair.† Humiliating him as an example might be even better than killing him outright.† That might just make him a martyr.† †††† ††††

What I'm saying is this.† Beware.† Beware before we start making rash statements to the world about how we will fight the good fight against terrorism to the end, no matter where it may lie.† Very many people have a very many number of things to fight about, and many of those are against us.† Use bin Laden as an example for others.† Just don't try and go in and take on the entire Afghani people and kill them all.† It won't work and it will cause a whole number of other problems.† Peace is better.† But now that War is thrust upon us, contain the bloodlust and get the job done right.

-        Noah