US-led Afghan Offensive Pushes on

General Tommy Franks, head of the American Central Command, claims the United States has applied the lessons drawn from previous battle of the Afghan War, especially the Tora Bora engagement, in the current push against Taliban and al Qaeda strongholds south of Gardez in East Afghanistan. He promises that in this offensive, dubbed Operation Anaconda, the two forces will not get away across the border into Pakistan. They will have to surrender or be killed.
He is probably right. Operation Anaconda is the largest US-led air and ground offensive of the Afghan War. Some 2000 coalition troops are ringing al Qaeda-Taliban hideouts in the east AfghanPaktiaMountains. Coalition bombers are relentlessly blasting their mountain strongholds. Some 100 to 200 rebels have been killed in the operation since it began five days ago, and a small number taken prisoner – Taliban fighters, as well Chechens and Uzbeks.
But the rebels are fighting back. Monday, March 4, al Qaeda and Taliban fighters fired machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades at two US helicopters, killing seven American soldiers. Tuesday, fresh US coalition troops were moved into the front lines.
debkafile‘s military analysts contend that even if the US-led operation achieves its objectives in full, its success will be short-lived. After the Gardez rebel concentration is broken up, making the highways to Kabul and Kandahar safe, it will be restocked gradually as of late spring from the other pockets of resistance around the country and across the border in Pakistan, Kashmir and the Ferangha Valley of Central Asia – in all of which thousands of Chechen, Uzbek, Chinese, Tadjik and Kazakh extremist Muslim militants are waiting their chance to creep back into Afghanistan. The US-Afghan force can dissolve pockets of resistance, but it cannot block off the constant passage of itinerant Taliban and al Qaeda militants up and down thousands of miles of routes, crisscrossing half a dozen countries.
Military strength, even assisted by technological surveillance, is unequal to this task, without efficient intelligence to pinpoint and hit those routes. This capability the Americans lack for the moment in Afghanistan and outside the country. Nor do they appear to be expending effort on repairing this deficiency. The US command seems to have set itself the task of striking at one stationary Taliban al-Qaeda pocket after another. It has little chance of catching rebels on the move now – any more than it had in the battles of Konduz and Tora Bora.

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