February 12, 2007

The Surge Has Failed - the Taliban "Surge" in Afghanistan, That Is

Hatched by Sachi

(Scared you, didn't I?)

The Fayetteville Observor published a mesmerizing article back in December about a very significant and bloody battle in Afghanistan. It was a battle which the elite media "may little note nor long remember;" but it was tremendously significant... and sends us a signal of how things are really going in the war against the "Taliban surge."

The fighting was fierce, lasting for weeks. Two forces fought for the hill named Sperwan Ghar; NATO forces -- including American Special Forces from Fort Bragg -- attacked enemy combatants, who had held the hill for almost a year (why they had been allowed to do so is another story entirely):

Just before dawn the second day, a convoy of GMVs -- a modified Humvee used by Special Forces soldiers -- and pick-ups raced cross-country over the packed sand and rocks toward the hill.

Air Force A-10 fighters pounded the hill as the Afghan and Special Forces soldiers approached. A few hundred yards from the base of the hill, the Taliban started to fire rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns at the soldiers.

Despite the fire, the Special Forces soldiers made steady progress up the hill until a bomb exploded underneath a GMV.

The blast blew the driver -- a Special Forces soldier -- to the top of the hill and set the truck on fire, trapping the gunner, soldiers said. Ammunition started to cook off, spraying the advancing soldiers with mortar and machine gun rounds.

An instant after the explosion, a Special Forces communications sergeant dashed into the flames and pulled the gunner to safety. The company commander said the communications sergeant’s heroic actions saved the gunner’s life and kept the attack from stalling.

Both soldiers in the truck were evacuated with an Afghan soldier who stepped on a mine and another soldier who was shot. The communications sergeant suffered burns, but remained in the fight.

The battle for Sperwan Ghar raged for another hour, ending when the U.S.-led force occupied the hill.

The enemy futilely tried to take back the hill; the battle raged for few more weeks. In the end, it was the bloodiest month of the year in Afghanistan -- for the Taliban, that is, more than 900 of whom were killed in September 2006.

Operation Medusa was a battle worthy of an epic poem, one that should be sung by bards to entertain kings and queens. But this is 2006; this is Afghanistan. Not only is there no song, we hardly heard a word about this gallant battle at all.

I read this New York Times story a few days ago, and something struck me as odd: we were told that 4,000 people died... but the Times was amazingly uninformative about who they were:

President Hamid Karzai offered peace talks with a resurgent Taliban after the bloodiest year since they were driven from power in 2001. More than 4,000 people, including about 170 foreign soldiers, died in fighting in 2006. Suicide bombings also rose sharply.

The phrase “4000 people” caught my eye. Did “people” include bad guys as well as innocent civilians? If so, how many?

What if a majority of those deaths were of Taliban terrorists? If so, then far from signalling a Taliban resurgence threatening Afghanistan's security (thus our own), it would mean their "surge" was as complete a failure as the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War.

Somebody had to find out; and if the Times was going to drop the ball, I decided it was up to the blogosphere.

Trying to find out how many Taliban were killed during last year, I read all the articles I could find about Taliban deaths at CounterTerrorism blog and ThreatsWatch and "counted the bodies" they listed. (April through December figures are mostly from CounterTerrorism; earlier figures are from ThreatsWatch.)

In the case of September, I found the official NATO figures and used those instead. And in the end, I got a pretty decent count of Taliban deaths in 2006 by month... though I may still have an undercount (see below).

I list the numbers of Taliban killed per month in the table below:

Taliban Deaths During 2006
Month Taliban Deaths
January 16
February (No data)
March 43
April 45
May 412
June 515
July 708
August 122
September 900
October 105
November 20
December 165
2006 Total 3051

In other words, what I discovered was that over three fourths of the 4,000 “people” killed in Afghanistan in 2006 were Taliban (war-related deaths).

Note that this is not an official count, and there aren't even any figures for February. In fact, I suspect these numbers are rather low: for September, I only counted 319 deaths in all incidents discussed on the two blogs; but NATO’s official count is 900. (In fact they say over 2000 were killed over a four months period.) Thus, for the 11 months where I could not find a NATO report, the numbers I have likely undercount Taliban deaths. (For some reason, the drive-by media is less interested in ferreting out Taliban deaths in Afghanistan than civilian deaths in Iraq.)

Let's give credit where it's due: Many of the battles were fought by our allies -- Canada, France, and the U.K. The Canadians especially are responsible for many Taliban deaths, and they deserve a round of applause (the Canadians, I mean, not the Taliban).

It's true that the Taliban is not destroyed; they're always looking for an opportunity to strike, and they will not be utterly defeated until Afghan forces are strong enough to crush the Taliban without Western help whenever they pop up again.

However, even today, when the Taliban actually stand and fight (which they do often), they are humiliatingly routed; this happens time and again.

I heard the Taliban are now considering an al-Qaeda type of "insurgency" against the NATO forces. I'm sure they'll try anything; but if 2006 is any indication, they will fail.

According to a historian Donald Stocker, for all the glamour and mythology surrounding insurgency, guerilla warriors rarely win such campaigns:

Vietnam taught many Americans the wrong lesson: that determined guerrilla fighters are invincible. But history shows that insurgents rarely win, and Iraq should be no different...

Myths about invincible guerrillas and insurgents are a direct result of America’s collective misunderstanding of its defeat in South Vietnam.... The Vietnamese may have been tough and persistent, but they were not brilliant. Rather, they were lucky -- they faced an opponent with leaders unwilling to learn from their failures: the United States.

The Vietcong insurgency contributed greatly to the erosion of the American public’s will to fight, but so did the way that President Lyndon Johnson and the American military waged the war. It was North Vietnam’s will and American failure, not skillful use of an insurgency, that were the keys to Hanoi’s victory.

Similar misunderstandings persist over the Soviet Union’s defeat in Afghanistan, the other supposed example of guerrilla invincibility. But it was not the mujahidin’s strength that forced the Soviets to leave; it was the Soviet Union’s own economic and political weakness at home. In fact, the regime the Soviets established in Afghanistan was so formidable that it managed to survive for three years after the Red Army left.

Stocker concedes that some insurgents were successful, but only when they could secure a training and staging ground (not subject to aerial bombardment) and could secure their supply lines. The Mujahadin's victory was only possible because we ensured their supply lines and because we gave them a save haven where they could train and stage.

Thus, if we can stop the Iraqi terrorists from securing both safe haven and supply lines, we can defeat them. That means cutting Iran off at the knees, of course.

For that, Stoker thinks our surge in Iraq may just work.

But the strategy of “surging” troops could offer a rare chance for success -- if the Pentagon and the White House learn from their past mistakes. Previously, the U.S. military cleared areas such as Baghdad’s notorious Haifa Street, but then failed to follow up with security. So the insurgents simply returned to create havoc. As for the White House, it has so far failed to convince the Iraqi government to remove elements that undermine its authority, such as the Mahdi Army. Bush’s recent speech on Iraq included admissions of these failures, providing some hope that they might not be repeated.

There is plenty of will to fight and will to win among American and NATO troops; even the new Iraqi troops are stepping up to the plate. The only question is, can the American people stomach the continuous bloody combat necessary for victory in Iraq?

Let's just assume the MSM will continue to report one "disaster" after another: We're going to hear a lot about how many "people" have been killed... so brace yourselves for that kind of media assault.

We all know, deep down, what it will take. I'm ready -- but is America?

Hatched by Sachi on this day, February 12, 2007, at the time of 5:24 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Stephen Macklin

To put it in the proper media context more Taliban were killed last year than the total number of U.S. servicemen and women killed in the entire Iraq war.

Somehow I don't expect to see that comparison in the the Times.

The above hissed in response by: Stephen Macklin [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 12, 2007 6:24 PM

The following hissed in response by: Big D

This is also a problem in Iraq, where casualty reports include the list of terrorists killed.

But hey, now, you say terrorist, the MSM says freedom fighter, but can't we all just get along? Besides, they would have stayed non-combatants if only the rotten George W. hadn't launched this war of choice. Choice is good except when killing evil dictators. All death is a bad thing, so we must increase the peace brother. Except, you know, when it is inconvenient. Like coma victims on life support.

Read Orwell's "Homage to Catalonia." sometime. A worthy read, and quit relevant re. the 1920s version of the MSM. In summary, the media of the time was just as clueless and biased as today. The only difference is that with worldwide communications the MSM has less excuse for their lies.

The above hissed in response by: Big D [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 13, 2007 12:28 PM

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