US forces to adjust military tactics in Afghanistan

17:46, December 03, 2010      

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President Barack Obama's administration has planned to make a serious war assessment in Afghanistan in December to determine its military deployment strategy in Afghanistan for a period of time to come. NATO summit in Lisbon last month called for a withdrawal of combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

President Obama also said during the summit that the United States, as a NATO member, will generally follow this schedule. This has set the tone for the year-end assessment of his administration and helps to force down the anti-war dissent in the U.S. with the help of its NATO allies.

Late last year, Obama introduced a new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and announced that he would speed 30,000 additional troops at the same time and proposed for starting the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan from July 2011 to expect for a "battle of quick decision". Since then, the U.S. and NATO forces under the command of former top military commander General McChrystal were mainly used the defensive counter-guerrilla tactics to focus on protection of civilians to win their hearts and minds instead of solely capturing and killing Taliban fighters.

But they attained little effects after the well-equipped NATO forces launched the "Marja Offensive" and the Kandahar Offensive". To date, the Taliban offensive will continue unabated, and NATO and U.S. Military casualties in Afghanistan have surged to a record high. An improved explosive device (IED), also known as a roadside bomb, has become the most common methods of attacks against NATO forces.

So, the well-equipped NATO and U.S. Forces have to increase the number of air strikes and to reduce ground operations to avoid excessive casualties. But air strikes are likely to cause civilian casualties, and this is contrary to the protection of civilians and the operational initiative of "winning hearts and minds". As for the year-end assessments in the Afghan war, Obama could hardly be given a satisfactory answer.

From early this year, there have been news that the Afghan government was in "secret talks with the Taliban" and, afterwards, the United States initiated economic measures and proposed "bribing" low-level Taliban fighters. And Taliban militants have been reported to disarm themselves and turn over to the Afghan government. But as a matter of course, this neither leads to a forward momentum against the Taliban forces nor produce much of an impact in the war in Afghanistan.

On peace talks with the Taliban, the United States has held a relatively low-key and conservative attitude, and it is not opposed to eventual talks with the Taliban leaders. It has been speculated once that the peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban is not far away. At the same time, the United States is suspicious about the Taliban sincerity in reconciliation.

For months, NATO helicopters ferried a man believed to be one of the Taliban's most senior commanders back and forth from Pakistan tribal area to the Afghan capital of Kabul for secret talks with Afghan leader, according to U.S. Media reports. But within a month, both U.S. and Afghan officials confirmed that the man was nobody but a liar. This Taliban chief paid for peace talks was an imposter. General David Petraeus, the US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, who was suspicious of the imposter, however, said he was not surprised about the report, as the true talks are still in an "initial phrase".

Nevertheless, this incident has made the United States even more convincing that the only military operation could make it possible to move Taliban toward political arrangements.

From a military point of view, the war in Afghanistan in 2010 has become a most painful year and especially in July, August and September, the number of casualties was high. This year has been the most violent since the Taliban regime collapsed in late 2001. In term of insecurity, at least 1,074 civilians were killed. Statistics also show that over the past three months, NATO forces carried out a total of 1,540 military operations, captured or killed 983 Taliban militants, including 339 Taliban leaders.

A periodic change has been evidenced in the recent military operation of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, and a direct reason has derived from the need for the year-end assessment of the Obama administration.

By People's Daily Online and its author is PD resident reporter in Pakistan Mou Zongzhong.


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