As an Army Ranger who walked the mountains around Asadabad with an exhaustive determination, I can vouch that we indeed need a new strategy.
One of the most frustrating things from my perspective as a Special Operator (which means I can’t even imagine how much despair the regular infantry feels), was that fighting in Afghanistan is akin to fighting ghosts.
We would take fire, react to contact and move towards their firing position and one of two things would happen:
- They were long gone — they have the local support and terrain knowledge and are very adept at attacking and slipping away.
- We would get to the firing position/village quickly and everyone would fain ignorance. All the sudden all these military age men were just “farmers”, “locals” or “family members”.
So, what would we do? We would have the interpreter talk to them, gather any intel they would give us (hahaha), and then leave…taking no one with us.
This leads to what Rajiv Chandrasekaran said in your article. There’s never been a long term strategy; for either troop levels or doctrine.
If we go into their backyard, take fire, move to their positions and yet when we come face to face with them, they just lie and we take it, then what are we doing?
In what general’s mind does one think that they are going to fess up to it once we get on scene. They aren’t going to be standing there with a hot AK-47 saying I’m the Taliban. You got me.
So if we don’t even have a plan regarding what to do with the enemy, even when we find them, if all they have to do is tell a convenient lie, then what are we doing in the first place?
There’s no way to win playing this way.
They are playing us like a bad cold. We might put them under, or set them back, for a day or two, but they just wait us out until we go away, then they’re back to their old tricks.
They aren’t scared of us.
They aren’t uniformed political soldiers. They are local ideologues who have intense survival instincts.
Until we know how to fight that type of enemy, and how to fight that kind of war with unwavering dedication, it’s useless to keep troops there.
The Vietnam moment has come. It’s time to bounce.