Military analysts: Afghanistan War is unwinnable – even with boosted coalition strength
The approximately 60,000 NATO forces fighting in Afghanistan are unable to achieve the goals of the war – even with the additional 21,000 US combat troops promised this year and “the big jump in the size of Afghan security forces” demanded by the new US commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal.
debkafile‘s military analysts see no real corroboration for the UK Chief of Defense Staff Sir Jock Stirrup’s assertion that the Taliban is “losing” in Afghanistan and “real governance” is emerging in Afghanistan.
He spoke Saturday, July 11 after the deaths of eight British troops in 24 hours in the embattled South Afghan province of Helmand, which the British death toll in 10 days to 15 and 184 in the nine-year war.
The 3,000 British troops were hit devastatingly in the third week of their Operation Panther’s Claw, launched to clear central Helmand of Taleban insurgents before Afghanistan’s August elections. A total 9,000 UK troops are deployed in the country.
The main thrust of the effort, the large-scale Operation Khanjar or Strike of the Sword, was mounted on July 2 by 4,000 US marines and 650 Afghan troops in the southern part of the province bordering on Pakistan.
July already threatens to become one of the bloodiest months of the war, with seven US troops killed Monday, July 6, and another five NATO soldiers in southern Afghanistan Friday, July 10.
Most of the losses were caused by powerful roadside bombs (IEDs) and some suicide attacks.
The two combined operations are not expected by most military observers to meet expectations in Washington and London for altering the course of the nine-year old war. In fact, the situation is expected to deteriorate further. Taliban spies in the local population have identified the smaller British force as the weaker link and are pounding it ruthlessly, so as to bring the American units to the rescue and slow their advance in the south.
The Taliban have the advantage of not being dependent on outside supplies of food, water or ammo, like the NATO forces; they have buried numerous secret bases hidden in the local villages where they go to ground to strike at approaching American or British units by stealth. When pressed, they melt into the population and become invisible.
In a typical instance last week, when US marines trapped Taliban fighters in a residential compound and persuaded them to let the women and children leave, they discovered too late that some of the “women” were insurgents hidden under burqas.
The Taliban can also call on their ties with local drug lords in nearby Pakistan for fresh fighting strength, cash, weapons and ammo.
The American commanders of Strike of the Sword are under orders to capture and “to hold” territory in Helmand and strike up friendly relations with the local population. But no one in Helmand, Kabul or even Washington can tell how long US forces must – or can – hold onto these areas in order to win them away from the Taliban. Can they hang on in combat situations for two or three years?
This predicament applies to other Taliban strongholds in Afghanistan – especially the east and south, where they are mounting successful attacks against the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the Afghan government. In the last three years they have regained lost terrain in key provinces such as Wardak near the capital Kabul and are close to retaking the southern town of Musa Qala.
The only silver lining in the Afghan war cloud for now is that the Taliban cannot hope to recover the whole of Afghanistan in view of its many tribal enemies at home.