No One Learns
Obama's Afghan adventure is already stumbling. The gist of the article is that the Taliban have largely fled from our forces, in classic guerilla fashion, before and during the recent push to clear and hold Helmand province. Some choice quotes,
"The movement of the Taliban into those areas has prompted complaints from German and Italian commanders, whose troops operate there, and have prompted questions about whether the United States has enough troops to pursue the Taliban while at the same time carrying out Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal's plan to "clear, hold and build" in areas wrested from Taliban control."
In addition to being an accurate complaint, we have no where near enough troops "clear, hold and build" the entire country, it also displays the enemies ability to create rifts amongst the armed forces of nation states.
"Last week, National Security Adviser James L. Jones told McClatchy that no additional troops would be sent to Afghanistan this year, even as some NATO nations threaten to draw down their presence."
We already don't have enough troops, even with a NATO presence, and should those withdrawals occur we certainly won't have enough then.
"Jones' comments raised the ire of commanders here, who asked why the administration asked them to conduct a 60-day strategy review if such a major decision already has been made."
Again, creating rifts within the forces of nation states, this time internal and departmental. A conflict between our civilian and military institutions.
"Violence here is at its highest levels since the Taliban fell in 2001. Even with the addition of 17,500 troops that President Barack Obama has ordered to Afghanistan, commanders fear they won't have enough troops to clear large swaths of the country and then hold them."
They simply don't, and that is pretty much the end of the story. Unless there is a radical shift in theory on the part of the both the military and our civilian leaders. But down that way lies the Undiscovered Country. And that shit is scary.
"In some cases, Taliban fighters donned burqas and held children's hands to pass as women to get out of the Helmand River Valley"
This demonstrates the ease with which the Taliban fight in a 4GW sense and the difficulty our 2GW military has in dealing with it, and also the tactical mobility of light infantry. These men had no critical equipment (GPS, laser range, all manner of technical doo-dads etc.) so they can simply ditch what they're carrying, which isn't much, don a burqa and make a hasty and strategically sound retreat. Since the higher level of war always trumps the lower, the Taliban win this round of the conflict. We went in to fight them in a stand-up jousting match and then hold that territory with the recent decrease in Taliban man-power forcing their retreat. Instead, they leave behind a token force to cover the retreat of everyone else, so that the bulk of the forces survive to fight another day. 4GW would have had American light infantry living amongst the people so our soldiers would simply know who was and wasn't Taliban by the fact that they know who their neighbors are and aren't. And if they don't know, their neighbors would inform them. Protect the people and the people protect you.
"Afghan defense officials said they believe the Taliban fighters stayed in the country and did not travel to nearby Pakistan, where they often take refuge, because they believe they can wait out the latest operation, even as U.S. officials have stressed that once they clear an area they will stay until the security situation has stabilized."
Meaning the Taliban are simply going to wait us out. However long it takes we will have to withdraw because we don't have the numbers of troops needed to essentially perform the impossible. We would simply be Afghanistan at that point. Or it would be America v2.0 or something. The fact that the Taliban seem slightly cocky about this is somewhat surprising, and may well lead to a tactical defeat on their part somewhere down the line. Or it may lead to the unthinkable.
Our overall strategy appears to be continuing the previous round of Whack-a-Mole. Boo, us.