President Obama recently made a surprise visit to the troops in Afghanistan (something I was very glad to see). While he was there, he spoke about the progress being made there. In the past month we have heard similar comments from Secretary Gates and General Petraeus. I wanted to take a close look for myself and see how things are really going. Since I can not go there myself I started doing some research and reading articles by people on both sides of the issue. What I found lead me to believe that we are hurting the Taliban and keeping Al Qaeda at bay but we are also not winning.
Our troops are complaining that most engagements with the enemy are at 500 plus meters and that we are rarely chasing and engaging the enemy. Rather, when attacked, we are stabilizing the area and chasing the enemy away (allowing them to attack us again later). Here is a report of a typical Taliban ambush written by an embedded reporter, James Foley (a video of this same ambush is below).
"The ambush I recorded on video for GlobalPost Aug. 26 was not particularly unique. Unfortunately, it’s an all too common occurrence for the soldiers patrolling here. Soldiers from Monti have been ambushed from the nearby steep mountainsides at least three times. The Taliban are known for being creatures of habit, using the same ambush spot if it proves effective. The difference is that this time the first truck was hit with a “lucky shot” which disabled it and the driver. I don’t want to go into more detail per Army operation security rules for embedded reporters.
When Pvt. Justin Greer got hit in the helmet, at first it didn’t seem real. I’ve noticed this immediate reaction in myself before. The mind, for several seconds, acts like it’s watching a movie. If this lasts for more than several seconds, one could freeze and really put themselves in danger. I’ve never seen an infantry soldier freeze. They’ve been trained to react to contact and in Kunar, their buddies’ lives depend on it.
Greer also appeared amazed with how close the bullet came to killing him. He showed me the bullet hole and the round he found in his helmet, before tucking it in his pocket as keepsake. Most likely it was an indirect shot, those Kevlar helmets rarely can stop a direct AK-47 7.62 round. A reporter told me that the layers of Kevlar in the U.S. helmet are actually designed to split and channel bullets, like Greer’s seemed to do.”
On other issues, there are some voices we rarely hear so I decided to quote a few of them. Please remember, I am not saying that any of these are opinions with which I agree. I am merely providing them so you can form a better opinion based on all sides rather than just replying on what the White House says.
"Taliban fighters are more likely to lay down arms if they are under pressure, and a weakened Taliban is more likely to negotiate on acceptable terms--outcomes the United States should encourage. Reconciliation with senior Taliban leaders on appropriate terms must be part of the United States' overall strategy. Irregular conflicts rarely end in a surrender ceremony on a battleship."
-- COUNCIL FOR FOREIGN RELATIONS
U.S. Strategy For Pakistan And Afghanistan
"U. S. Commanders say the insurgency's sanctuaries and freedom of movement are being challenged, and progress is being seen in the south. Yet the vast majority of independent experts--consultants, journalists, and humanitarian workers--disagree; they maintain that the insurgency has made considerable headway in recent months and has not experienced significant reversals in the south."
-- CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE
Afghanistan: Breaking Point
"The outline [of U.S. policy] is already clear: U.S. forces will try to pummel the Taliban to bring them to the table; responsibility for security will increasingly be transferred to Afghan forces and more money will be provided for economic development. The aim will be a dignified drawdown of troops as public support wanes while at the same time ensuring that a post-withdrawal Afghanistan, at the very least, does not become the epicentre of transnational terrorism."
-- INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP
Live Long and Prosper.....