Strategy Is Ass Backwards: Heavy Near Civilians, Light Against Taliban
Result: Afghan Civilians' Anger at
U.S. Rises, Taliban Morale Goes Up
October 26, 2001
Three days ago I criticized U.S. military
policy for improperly focusing our bombing more on buildings near civilians
than on Taliban troops in the field.
Exactly what you might expect
from such misguided efforts is coming to pass.
Civilian casualties from
U.S. bombing and missiles are angering the population and causing them to
rally to the Taliban.
According to one report,
signs that the duration and
the sharpness of the American bombing campaign was beginning to shore up
support for the Taliban inside Afghanistan, where their popularity was
clearly on the wane before Sept. 11.
Repeated reports by the
Taliban of American bombs' killing civilians appear to have intensified
the feeling among Afghans that the United States has attacked Afghanistan,
not just its rulers.
A similar analysis was made
Abdul Haq, a former
guerrilla commander who was seen by some American officials as the
potential leader of an anti-Taliban uprising.
...after Oct. 7, the day
air attacks on Afghanistan began, his confidence seemed to erode. He said
that the bombing was a terrible mistake, that it was rallying Afghans
around the besieged Taliban.
You may have read that Haq
was just caught by the Taliban inside Afghanistan and executed.
Yet another account
of changing Afghan sentiment:
The heavy bombing over
Herat, which resulted in deaths of civilians at a home for the elderly and
in a nearby village, angered ordinary people but appeared to embolden the
This leads to the related
Light U.S. airstrikes
directly on Taliban troops are actually increasing their morale.
Heavy airstrikes that focus
on structures and supplies mean that
"After two or three
days, the Taliban get used to it and their morale gets better and
better," a visitor from Herat said.
And when the U.S. bombing is
directed at Taliban troops, it's so light as to also be
Under the headline
"Anti-Taliban Forces Say Light U.S. Strikes Lift Foes' Morale,"
the New York Times, in a story worth quoting at some length, reports
The American plane roared
overhead at 1:30 p.m. today, and Shir Muhammad and his soldiers in the
Northern Alliance paid little attention.
Four days ago, the sound of
jet engines sent these men scrambling to the roof of their command post to
watch American planes bomb front-line Taliban positions here, some 35
miles north of Kabul, for the first time.
Today, however, Mr.
Muhammad became one of several alliance commanders in the slice of the
territory they control who are complaining about the pace and scale of
American airstrikes. In their current form, he said, the strikes are doing
more to bolster Taliban morale than to erode it...
On open radio channels,
Taliban forces are mocking the American attacks, according to troops from
the Northern Alliance. "They make a lot of jokes," Mr. Muhammad
said. "They say, `The American bombs do nothing.' "
Mr. Muhammad said the light
initial bombing has set back negotiations with potential Taliban
defectors..."They were very afraid and had low morale," he said,
referring to the period before the bombing. "After a few attacks,
their morale was better."
I actually had to re-read
this story several times in order to believe that such a devastating
indictment of U.S. military policy was really being reported in the
mainstream U.S. press.
Several thousand elite
Taliban troops are defending Kabul, dug in on a flat plain north of that
city. Since we long ago achieved total air superiority, we should have
been carpet bombing the Taliban forces with B-2's and B-52's, following up
with AC-130 gunships, and then advancing on Kabul under cover of helicopter
are we may have started that process just today, but even if so, why
the interminable delay?
What on earth is the Bush
administration thinking with their bombing policy?
Unfortunately, given the
horrific fumbling by Bush administration officials with the anthrax attack inside our own country, it's hard to
imagine that they would know more about what they're doing in far away
Against all odds, I sure hope