Changing Tactics in Afghanistan
WITH elections coming up in June in Afghanistan, both the US-led coalition forces and the Pakistan military have stepped up security measures to prevent the remnants of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, thought to be hiding in the mountainous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, from disrupting the elections. Although Pakistan initially played down the presence of the Taliban and al-Qaeda on its border, it has now acknowledged their presence, and has announced a major military offensive against them.
US and Pakistan forces are operating on a strategy that would drive the Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters across the border, where they would become targets of US and Afghan forces. Western diplomats announced they are now getting "full cooperation from the Pakistan military, with regular meetings between the military commanders.
This mountainous, barely accessible border is the area where Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar are thought to be hiding, hence the recurrent rumor that Osama bin Laden may soon be cornered and captured in this fresh offensive.
A major criticism of the US efforts at Afghan security is the fact that it has been concentrated in and around the capital of Kabul which is the only part of the country deemed safe. Recently, however, the US military shifted tactics. Instead of sending out platoons on missions in the country side and then returning them to base, they are sending soldiers to stay in villages and towns where they can hope to win the cooperation of local warlords and villagers in tracking down the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Already, in a few weeks, the on-theground intelligence has led US military to new al-Qaeda arms caches, according to General David Barno, who heads the US forces in Afghanistan, and approved the new operation. …