July 6, 2009

COIN 101

As American and NATO troops push deeper into the Helmand River valley, commanders express optimism that the going has been easier than expected. Still, they claim to understand that the Taliban avoids large scale battles and is unlikely to confront a superior force, popping up elsewhere to attack softer targets. American commanders may be aware of this strategy, but stopping it is another story.

Since Operation Khanjar launched on July 2nd, America claims to have killed 30-40 militants while suffering only 1 casualty and 3 wounded. 2 other American soldiers were killed, the cause of death was attributed to heat exhaustion, but should also be attributed to the Taliban - an attack from their land. 2 UK soldiers fell in battle as well, one the highest officer killed in three decades.

Skirmishes are inevitable, but in a limited defensive, disruptive, capacity. Militants in Helmand are lying low as the Taliban goes on the offensive elsewhere.

4 US soldiers were killed by an IED in northern Kunduz province as they trained Afghan forces. A Marine was kidnapped outside his base in Paktika province, while 2 US soldiers were killed and 4 wounded after militants attacked another base in Paktika. A suicide car bomber blew himself up outside the NATO Kandahar airfield. A Canadian soldier in a convoy was killed by a IED in the Zhari southeastern Kandahar. Canada's chief commander, Brigadier General Jonathan Vance, was travelling in the convey and said his vehicle passed over the bomb before it blew the next armored vehicle.

The Taliban is proving it can strike north, south, east or west, that occupying any one province is pointless because it operates in over 20. The Taliban is avoiding the full and attacking the vacuous, a basic concept of guerrilla warfare and the Tao. But what of General Vance? Is he serious or facilitating propaganda when he says, "IEDs are the tools of cowards. They're indiscriminate and all too deadly."

They're supposed to be deadly. Is General Vance blowing hot air or is he sincere? What does he expect, for the Taliban to engage coalition armor and air power, to fight stupidly instead of cowardly? Hopefully General Vance is being deceptive because his opinion, if serious, is poison in Afghanistan and not the right mindset to understand counterinsurgency.

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