Why Another Blog?

I've decided to set up another blog, (my other one is called Writer's Musings), because there are some topics just too weighty for that blog.

So here it is. In this space I'll explore more serious issues in more detail. I do not expect visitors to agree with me in all cases.
In this forum feel free to take off the gloves, grab a handful of mud and fight for what you believe in.

Simple rules, rather like cage-fighting in the blogosphere:
No direct name calling. No excessive profanity. No whining when smacked in the face with mud.
Sling inuendo. Feel free to ask leading questions even if in a snide tone.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

More on the French Casualties

Let me start by saying that I have not been able to verify any details. It will be a while before any reports are published and made public. However, one hears bits and pieces because people talk. I won't discuss details, but will speak in generalities. So this is what I've heard about the ambush that killed ten French Soldiers on Monday, 18 August.

Like the attack last month that killed nine Americans, our complacency may have contributed significantly to the casualties. On the battlefield, complacency gets you killed. There is no redo when you screw up. The only time the Taliban try to take on a NATO unit head on, is when they believe they have an immediate advantage. The Taliban watch our patrols. If they determine that our patrols are being complacent, then they believe that they can achieve surprise and tactical advantage.

Apparently the French violated some fundamental tactical rules. One of those rules is, when going into "Injun country," be prepared to fight. The word floating around is that a number of the French soldiers had removed their body armor and had left their weapons in vehicles while they were on the ground. If true, this is a big screw up. They weren't prepared to fight. Again, I can't positively verify this, but I'm a believer of the "where there is smoke, there is fire" theory.

Almost all the casualties occurred in the first minute, not minutes, of the three-hour fight. (This seems to be a consistent retelling of when the casualties occurred.) If so, it would seem that the Taliban force did achieve complete tactical surprise. After that, the patrol salvaged the situation.
Taliban tactics are hardly worthy of praise. They lingered after the initial engagement long enough to get themselves beat up after having successfully inflicted serious casualties on a superior armed force. They should have broken contact within two minutes and headed for the hills before our air could start pounding them.

It is possible that French return fire pinned the Taliban so that they could not escape, but if that is true, then the Taliban commander screwed up in a different way. Covered and concealed escape routes should have already been selected so that his force could break contact. Whether by deliberate design or because of being pinned, the Taliban suffered far worse casualties than the French. Helicopter gunships and ground attack jets drove them all the way to and over the Pakistan border.

While the media portrays such an attack as demonstrating a "resurgent" or "brazen" Taliban, what it really shows is that they are poorly led. Their commanders are not competent if they wind up getting the ambushing force that badly mauled. A competent guerrilla commander would not have hung around to allow an opponent known to have superior fire-power, to use that fire-power.

In every engagement where our forces manage to avoid complacency and get the Taliban to fight us, we win big with minimal casualties. We can defeat them over time that way. Even when our guys have messed up, we still inflict disproportionate casualties on the Taliban.

The difference is that the Taliban do not have their own media crowing for the enemy. They can lose hundreds of fighters in a single engagement, but our media will say that they are "resurgent." Our media will paint the story as doom and gloom for the coalition.

Our troops have to pick up the paper and read that the media have determined that they are losing the war every time one Soldier is killed. God help us when we have a bad day and ten are killed. The folks at home hear the same thing over and over. Eventually they start to believe it, even though the facts on the ground say otherwise. That is what the media wrought in Iraq.

The enemy are very much in tune with Western media and how the Western public reacts to that media. They plan their actions specifically for how it will play in the Western media. The Western media plays right into their schemes, gleefully providing them with the propoganda edge they need.

The Taliban and Al Qaeda leadership are not stupid. They know they can't win on the battlefield, but they have a pretty good idea that they have a chance to win on your television. All they have to do is stick around long enough for the folks back home to tell the politicians to "pack it in."

2 comments:

sex scenes at starbucks said...

No one I've talked to (and I've asked) thinks we are are losing in Afghanistan. My anecdotal evidence leads me to believe that most people also think it's a worthy fight. But it's largely the "forgotten war" over here.

Iraq is a different story. Civilians know we can pound the shit out of them, and do when it's called for, but there's a feeling that our presence will not change the Iraqis' basic condition. There's a feeling they don't want to change (which might be the western media's fault, but also may be the fault of the Iraqis themselves).

Also, as you know, the economy sucks, so the media and also the people largely believe that we can no longer afford to fight on both fronts. I'm not for unilateral pull-out, you know that by now. But I'm for some definite goal-setting and achieving. Hopefully a new president can lead the way in that, though I've little faith in either candidate.

J. L. Krueger said...

Sex,

Not yet anyway...but at first in Iraq the poll numbers were supportive. As the media begins to emphasize casualties here, which are nowhere near what they've been in Iraq, I expect to see the numbers change.

We expect too much, too fast from both the Iraqis and Afghans. Both countries have been traumatized for over thirty years. That is bound to have created some bad juju that won't go away for at least a generation.

We've discussed elsewhere the whole thing about going into Iraq. While it was not a strategically wise move, once made, it was something we needed to see through. Even there, some decisions made the job much harder than it needed to be. A foreign policy driven by ideology can be a bad thing (firing the Iraqi Army and Police).

Sometimes one must play by Byzantine rules to really succeed (read that well-placed bribes and other means of co-opting one's foe short of killing him).

Unfortunately, we neglected a lot of soft power initiatives that would have made it much more difficult for the Taliban to attempt a comeback here in Afghanistan due to the diversion of resources. The Byzantine method definitely applies here too. It works and costs less blood...it just isn't as "glorious" as fighting and it doesn't create sexy headlines.