Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

US Shapes a 'Hit and Run' War ; Strategy in Afghanistan Is to Sustain Pressure on Taliban Long Enough to Fracture Both Its Will and Weaponry

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

US Shapes a 'Hit and Run' War ; Strategy in Afghanistan Is to Sustain Pressure on Taliban Long Enough to Fracture Both Its Will and Weaponry

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON

One month on, the US military strategy in Afghanistan is settling into a hit-and-run campaign of air attacks and ground raids designed to exhaust Taliban patience with months of continuous pressure.

In Pentagon doctrine, it's an "asymmetric" style of warfare that takes advantage of US air power and mobility, while avoiding the Taliban's strength - trench ground defenses.

Whether this strategy can produce something the American public recognizes as victory is an open question. Also unknown is whether US allies will grow impatient with such deliberate methods.

But it remains a kind of fight the Pentagon can prosecute for months to come with the intent of fracturing an opponent's will and weaponry.

"I don't think the Taliban understand what they have unleashed," says Steven Metz, chairman of the regional strategy and planning department at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa.

Since the US began bombing Taliban and Al Qaeda targets on Oct. 7, Department of Defense officials have been stung by criticism from some Western analysts and Northern Alliance rebels that the US attacks have been limited and ineffectual. The Pentagon didn't help itself when the person giving a press briefing, early on, inaccurately described Taliban combat power as "eviscerated."

Washington, in turn, has been unimpressed by Northern Alliance fighting prowess. Lawmakers are already openly speculating about the extent to which substantial deployments of US ground troops will be needed to root out Taliban forces.

Heavy US troop units indeed may eventually be needed, say Pentagon strategists. But that decision is in the future. For now, they are arguing that America needs to remain patient and, in essence, give war a chance.

"We're doing our work on our timeline," said Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of US forces in Afghanistan, in a broadcast appearance over the weekend.

In a recent blitz of public statements, General Franks and other military leaders have been describing the Afghanistan effort as a war unlike any the US has experienced before. Its goal is not the occupation of strategic territory, but rather the destruction of a terrorist network and its support structure.

Turning up the pressure

Plans do not call for a linear progression of an air war, followed by Special Operations Forces, and then introduction of ground troops. Rather, these different kinds of forces are all "tools in our toolbox," according to Franks. At certain times, the US will use one or more of these tools, as conditions warrant.

The point is to ensure that the Taliban and its Al Qaeda allies are always under pressure and on the defensive. This compounds any material destruction inflicted by US forces.

Eventually, goes the plan, the strain of constant vigilance will begin to crack Taliban leaders' control, communications, and will to fight. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.