AMERICA’S WAR ON TERROR – Part II: The Military Campaign Fails to Grip
debkafile‘s military analysts define the first round of theUS assault in Afghanistan as uncertain and operationally unimaginative.
In fact, it may be said that the US is reliving the 1998 Kosovo War, when it tried to break Slobodan Milosovic’s rule by blasting Belgrade from the air. That tactic left the Yugoslav army more or less intact and Milosovic unscathed – until he was removed by force of political and economic maneuvering.
A week of aerial bombardment over Afghanistan was proof enough that, barring follow-up ground action, this was not the way to oust the Taliban or to capture the super terrorist Osama Bin Laden. The week therefore ended in a draw – a signal achievement for both of America’s enemies. Taliban capabilities may have been impaired but, according to reports on the ground, the main body of its force defending Kabul remains intact.
According to our analysts, as October advances, the chances of a significant American ground action in Afghanistan diminishes.
October 14 and October 15 are more or less the last nights of low lunar illumination. However debkafile‘s Washington sources report that President Bush has not yet given the go-ahead for more than a token operation on the ground, aimed mostly at demonstrating to the American people that the war is going forward.
The US defense secretary and senior command have no intention of dropping US troops in Afghanistan between November 2001 and April 2002, when the harsh winters of the Afghan mountains prevail. The weather forecasters we consulted predict a heavier snowfall and more acute cold conditions this coming winter than usual.
On the other hand, an announcement from Washington that America is taking a winter break from its war on terror is unthinkable. The alternative course would be to activate the rebel Northern Alliance as the US proxy ground force against the Taliban, while theUS concentrates its military efforts on other terrorist concentrations, hosts and sponsors, such as Iraq, Somalia, Lebanon and Syria.
Therefore the opening of a second front in America’s war on terror may happen much sooner than many expect.
The trouble with this scenario is that it leaves Osama Bin Laden, America’s primary foe, holding the element of military surprise. While the US army’s hands are tied by weather conditions, Bin Laden remains at large and free to strike.
The Northern Alliance presents no real impediment to the ex-Saudi terrorist. Its leaders are reluctant to move into Kabul before the Americans have cleared the way and established a post-Taliban regime. Although most of their tanks are crewed by Russians, the rebels have little confidence in their ability to vanquish the Taliban without a bloodbath.