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article imageOp-Ed: Obama to send 17,000 more US troops to Afghanistan

By Paul Wallis     Feb 18, 2009 in World
In a move many will say was long overdue and long suggested, the Obama administration intends to deploy the equivalent of a 50% increase in US forces in Afghanistan. The troops include 8000 Marines and a brigade of Army as combat units.
These reinforcements will make a difference. The situation in Afghanistan has continued on its blundering way despite notable efforts from the troops, and the almost total unsuitability of some NATO forces to the campaign. US, Australian, British and Canadian forces represent the main effective combat elements.
A resurgence of the Taliban has been causing major issues for the overstretched Allied military, and repeated efforts to shut down cross border supplies to them have been hampered by political issues. The mildly insane supply situation, in which a single road route through is the major artery, has been playing havoc. Pakistan, which isn’t able to deal effectively with the problem, is displeased at strikes inside its territory.
Despite which, the recent large scale Taliban offensive, their version of the Tet offensive in Vietnam, hasn’t worked very well. They’ve strengthened in both their efforts and forces, and taken over uncontested regions, but haven’t made major gains.
The Taliban haven’t been particularly effective in their engagements with Allied combat forces. They’ve shown a capacity to engage in firefights for hours at a time, which is unusual in this type of warfare. That fact indicates that they’re well supplied, but the lack of actual successes suggests the old guard of mujahadin are getting thinner on the ground.
In practice, direct engagement with Allied forces isn’t even a theoretical good move. For supposedly veteran Taliban forces, the tactics are pretty dumb. They have yet to inflict any sort of significant defeat on Allied forces.
Politically, the Taliban aren’t getting the sort of support they once had. either. All due respect to a recent CTV Canada report, but 27% support for the Taliban means 73% don't support. The Afghanis aren’t necessarily supportive of the Kabul government, but surveys are now showing they’re less than enthused about the Taliban and their hard line fundamentalism, too. Times have changed in Afghanistan, and the Taliban are fighting a war which has been raging for 30 years.
Fundamentalism has been showing some real weaknesses. In Chechnya, the prolonged war was a major incentive for destroying the recruitment base among a population which was heartily sick of the constant fighting. In Iraq, the oppressive Islamic hardliners caused a rebellion among the tribes who’d previously been supporting them.
Apparently the self proclaimed moral superiority of others isn’t too popular among the people expected to die for it.
The likely outcome of this large scale reinforcement will be a progressive shutdown of Taliban capacity to engage with Allied forces. The Marines were suggested long ago as the right sort of combat troops for Afghanistan, light forces with a lot of grunt. The Army brigade, which comes with a lot of organic firepower, is a useful all rounder. Marine and Army units have worked well in combination, notably in Fallujah, against extremely determined, fully prepared opposition.
The Obama administration, rightly, isn’t looking for a purely military solution to the Afghanistan war. However, it might get an unexpected bonus with this move.
The Taliban aren’t invincible, or anything like it. They’ve been beaten repeatedly for the last 7 years, despite the many mistakes and operational limitations of their opponents. Nor do they have unlimited men and resources. They’re getting low on their core cadres of experienced fighters. People won’t back losers forever. They failed, dismally, against much weaker opposition, after months of fighting last year.
These reinforcements could be one too many brick walls for the Taliban to bash their heads against.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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