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U.S. Bombing Strategy Is Ass Backwards: Heavy Near Civilians, Light Against Taliban Troops

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, there are

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 by

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 Taliban fighters.

This leads to the related point:

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 counterproductive.

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 that

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 gunships.  Indications 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 Afghanistan.

Against all odds, I sure hope they do.

This was a selection from The Daily Diatribe

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