U.S. Marines in helicopters and Humvees flooded into a Taliban-held town in southern Afghanistan’s most violent province early Tuesday in the first major American operation in the region in years.
Several hundred Marines pushed into the town of Garmser in predawn light, stretching NATO’s presence into an area littered with poppy fields and classified as Taliban territory.
U.S. commanders say Taliban fighters have been expecting an assault and have been setting up improvised explosive devices in response.
The Corps has been after this mission for over a year, and the 24th MEU is well-blooded after three deployments to Iraq. Of course, their adversaries have been fighting among themselves for nearly 30 years – all the stupid ones are already dead.
“When the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers.” — Oscar Wilde
** 11-20-20 Original link gone; replacement found – Ed.
I never earned the Silver Star, not in 30 years of wearing the uniform. Never really came close. Monica Lin Brown has earned it at age 19:
Monica Brown, a medic, was part of a four-vehicle convoy patrolling near Jani Kheil in the eastern province of Paktia when a bomb struck one of the Humvees on April 25, military officials said.
After the explosion, she braved insurgent gunfire and mortars to reach five wounded soldiers. She shielded them as she administered aid and helped drag them to safety, the military said.
“I did not really think about anything except for getting the guys to a safer location and getting them taken care of and getting them out of there,” Monica Brown told The Associated Press on Saturday from a U.S. base in the province of Khowst.
I’ve said before that the US and its coalition allies are in the rare and enviable position of deciding whether or not to win the wars they find themselves embroiled in – the social costs of wartime defeat are historically so burdensome that it is far more often imposed than chosen.
Put aside for now blood-stirring but essentially intangible Jacksonian costs such as diminished national pride and prestige, not to mention the moral price of implicitly sanctioning genocide and the imposition of soul-destroying tyrannies upon peoples imprisoned by their circumstances. From a purely pragmatic perspective, there are still those holes in the New York city skyline bearing mute witness to the fact that permitting toxic forms of repression to take root inside failed states encourages the eventual export of their barbarisms abroad. Not to mention the loss of strategic influence in a critical part of the world, nor the price of letting implacable enemies fill the vacuum left by our retreat.
But I’ve been consistent on this all along, which has probably become a bit of a tedious slog for the occasional reader. Which is why this Washington Post op-ed from Anthony Cordesman, a harsh critic of President Bush’s policies in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the non-partisan Center for Strategic and International Studies seems so useful:
No one can return from the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, as I recently did, without believing that these are wars that can still be won. They are also clearly wars that can still be lost, but visits to the battlefield show that these conflicts are very different from the wars being described in American political campaigns and most of the debates outside the United States…
What the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan have in common is that it will take a major and consistent U.S. effort throughout the next administration at least to win either war. Any American political debate that ignores or denies the fact that these are long wars is dishonest and will ensure defeat. There are good reasons that the briefing slides in U.S. military and aid presentations for both battlefields don’t end in 2008 or with some aid compact that expires in 2009. They go well beyond 2012 and often to 2020.
If the next president, Congress and the American people cannot face this reality, we will lose…
We either need long-term commitments, effective long-term resources and strategic patience — or we do not need enemies. We will defeat ourselves.
True enough, although it’s worth keeping in mind that we will have enemies, whether we need them or not.
How can you tell that the fighting is truly over in al Anbar? It’s when the US Marines, who’ve been assigned primary responsibility the Sunni dominated, western Iraqi AOR since 2004, decide that it’s time to up sticks and move to Afghanistan – because heard tell? They’ve still got a fight going on over there:
France on Thursday eased simmering tensions within Nato over Afghanistan when its defence minister said it would send troops to the violent south of the country to help Canadian forces there.
Canada has threatened to pull its 2,500 troops out of Kandahar province unless its Nato allies sent 1,000 more troops. After a meeting of Nato defence ministers in Vilnius, Hervé Morin, France’s defence minister, said: “I’ve said we’ll help the Canadians.”
Sleep easier tonight, Great White Up: “La délivrance,c’est assuré.”
The R.A.F. have been utterly, utterly useless,’’ Maj. Loden was quoted as saying, referring to two instances involving Harrier warplanes during close ground combat.
“A female Harrier pilot ‘couldn’t identify the target,’ fired two phosphorous rockets that just missed our own compound so that we thought they were incoming RPG’s, and then strafed our perimeter, missing the enemy by 200 meters,’’ he wrote, according to British news reports. RPG stands for rocket-propelled grenade.
In contrast to Britain’s Royal Air Force, Maj. Loden said, the United States Air Force had been “fantastic.’’
As you might suspect, that comparison went over like a fart in church up-echelon. Hard to make any general conclusions from one man’s specific observations, but it’s interesting how in this fight, the voices of the troops – for better or worse – are much more likely to pass through the filters, military, civil, media and that once would have held them in check.
The Marines are busy winning hearts and minds in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Which is a pretty good thing, because if this WaPo article has it right, they’re not winning many hearts or minds at CENTCOM:
In a “chickens home to roost” event, a large number of Taliban militants crossed from Afghanistan into Pakistan to engage in a firefight with local security forces, leaving at least 28 of the latter dead: