Posted by Lex, on August 11, 2010
It was a remarkable story. By the fall of 2006, a gutsy and eccentric tribal leader had teamed up with MacFarland, who was willing to take a chance on a sheik with a checkered background. One by one, other sheiks joined his alliance. Intelligence began flooding into the U.S. military, allowing the targeting of al-Qaeda leaders. Many of the tribes had been allied with al-Qaeda and knew its secrets.
Ramadi remained a violent place, though. Al-Qaeda fought back hard. That’s partly how American officers knew they were making progress. Al-Qaeda recognized that if it lost the tribes, the population would follow and there would be nowhere to hide.
The headlines from Ramadi continued to focus on U.S. casualties. But another casualty figure went unreported. By January, the brigade was responsible for killing 55 enemy for every fallen American, according to brigade records. It’s true you can’t kill your way out of an insurgency, but it was America’s willingness to fight al-Qaeda and its precision in doing so that helped win over the tribes…
As late as January 2, 2007, The Baltimore Sun carried a story about a Marine battalion in downtown Ramadi. It was headlined, “Marines locked in Anbar standoff.” But there was no standoff. The Marines and the Army had turned the corner.
Precise parallels between Iraq and Afghanistan are hard to draw, and our advances in Anbar can not be taken for granted. Having done what we could do by force of arms in Iraq, the military passes the lead to the Department of State, who suddenly realize – shocka – that they are under-resourced for the task.
But potentially related to Michaels’ introspection is a bit of welcome news that he reports elsewhere in the same paper:
NATO has reached its goal of expanding the size of Afghanistan’s army and police to 240,000 three months ahead of schedule, achieving a key measurement that will be used to gauge progress in the war.
The size and quality of Afghan security forces will be a central part of a review that the White House will be conducting in December to measure the effectiveness of its strategy of emphasizing protecting civilians in Afghanistan.
Quality certainly matters, but quantity has a quality of its own. Much will depend upon how the Afghan people tire of the Taliban-driven slaughter; by opposing it and allying with their “government” and coalition forces, or by caving in to the re-imposition of Taliban rule, which promises little more than smothering tyranny and the peace of the dead.
Over in Pakistan, a beleaguered government complains that the international community – already weary of seeing aid vanish into a gaping maw of corruption and resource mis-allocation – is not doing enough to help mitigate the effects of a natural disaster of near biblical proportions. The US is promising to divert resources from the ongoing war across the border for humanitarian assistance:
In Washington, U.S. officials said they would provide an additional $20 million in aid, bringing the total U.S. contribution to $55 million. They also said that in response to Pakistan’s need for more airlift capacity, the USS Peleliu, with about 16 heavy-lift helicopters, was awaiting final approval from the Pakistani government and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to dock in Karachi. The aircraft are expected to take over from four Chinook and two Black Hawk helicopters that were diverted from Afghanistan early last week.
The Pakistani Taliban decry the US-led effort, saying that they will help “rebuild” the ravaged region.
But I wonder: How many helicopters have the Taliban?