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August 19, 2008

What was the message behind extraordinary Afghanistan attack?

Earlier today, about 30 miles outside of Kabul, Taliban forces launched an extraordinary attack on a French patrol, killing 10 soldiers and injuring another 21. It lasted for hours and as many as 200 Taliban forces were involved. Clearly, it was well-coordinated.

It was the latest in a string of bad news coming out of Afghanistan these days.  This summer has been the deadliest for NATO and U.S. troops since 2001. Indeed, more soldiers are dying  in Afghanistan than Iraq.

Monday’s attack was the deadliest single attack in Afghanistan since 2001. Until Monday, the deadliest attack had been on July 13 when the same amount of Taliban soldiers attacked a U.S. patrol. Nine U.S. troops were killed in that attack.

In addition, it was the deadliest attack against French forces since 1983 when 58 paratroopers were killed by a suicide bomber in Lebanon. Before Monday, the French had lost 14 soldiers in Afghanistan since the end of 2001. 

So why did it happen? There are two theories being considered here at the Pentagon. One is political and the other is strategic.

The first is that the Taliban was retaliating against the French for sending 700 more troops in Afghanistan under pressure from NATO and the Bush administration.  French President Nicholas Sarkozy took a lot of criticism from his people in April, when the additional troops arrived. And today, some Frenchmen charged that their troops died for America, not France.

By attacking the troops, the Talbian sent a message to future NATO allies that their troops are not safe.

The second is that the Taliban is trying to rattle Kabul, psychologically. They are under no illusions that they can take the capital, the theory goes, but if they can keep launching these kind of attacks, residents will be paralyzed.

Either reason is troubling. And as the U.S. military debates sending more troops in Afghanistan, it begs the question: Can more troops stop these kind of well-coordinated attacks?

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Comments

Papawhale

When will we ever learn? Trying to bomb these people (at great cost in innocent lives) into submission in a guerrilla war is incredibly stupid. The Russians couldn't do it and apparently we didn't learn our lessons well in Vietnam, Jungle/desert comparison aside. Their will to defend their own turf is rooted in the ages while ours is in greed and misguided ideology and there's the rub. Fools. What a waste of lives and resources and perception of good will worldwide. It's NOT a "good" war, if there are any. And changing strategy to more troops is folly of the worst kind but great for the war profiteers.

readerOfTeaLeaves

No clue what the message is.... but it does suggest that the topic of your Aug 15th post, about new approaches to dealing with conflict (other than, say, bombs and guns) might be a good idea sooner, rather than later.

The whole guns-and-bombs approach seems a bit 20th century. Of greater interest to me:
1. Do any of the US troops even speak whatever languages those Taliban fighters speak...? Does anyone in the US Army even speak Pashtun?
2. Do any of the US troops know much about the crops, religious rituals, tribal relationships, or beliefs of those Taliban fighters? Maybe they do know those things... but if so, how did they get blindsided?

Here's hoping that War College commander you mentioned in previous weeks is successful in helping military officers better seek to understand (and enjoy) diverse people in foreign lands. Because it seems like a far smarter long term strategy than simply drawing plans on maps.

I don't mean to besmirch the military; I was quite heartened to see your previous post about new approaches to educating young military officers.

And this post seems to underscore the necessity of new approaches.

Persona non grata

What was the message behind extraordinary Afghanistan attack?

Foreign military occupier(s) leave now.

Philip Henika

Here we are again - stuck in the time loop that is Charlie Wilson's War and we have nobody to thank except for perhaps the NeoCon protaganists. Has anyone asked Bush Ad. or McCain or Obama to account for a peacebuilding component to US counterterrorism strategy?

Pvt. Keepout

"Can more troops stop these kind of well-coordinated attacks?"

If you got at least 600,000 of them, maybe. Emphasis on 'maybe.'
Otherwise, close the show & keep the store open till 9:00.

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"Nukes & Spooks" is written by McClatchy correspondents Jonathan S. Landay (national security and intelligence), Warren P. Strobel (foreign affairs and the State Department), and Nancy Youssef (Pentagon).

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