Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Will Taliban Defeat Itself?

The UN has issued its most recent assessment of civilian casualties in Afghanistan. The numbers aren't particularly pretty. The count of the maimed and killed is up the first six months of this year compared with the same period a year back.

The good news, insofar as one can write of "good news" when considering the wounding and killing of non-combatants is that Taliban, the Haqqani network, and other groups of similar ilk are responsible for six civilian casualties for every one inflicted by the ISAF or Afghan National Forces. This ratio is, in part, a credit to the doctrine of "courageous restraint" instituted by General Stan McChrystal and wisely, very wisely continued by General Petraeus.

But even more the differential between Taliban inflicted deaths and mutilations and those resulting from friendly forces is the consequence of a deliberate policy instituted by Taliban. The new policy, approved by spiritual head and one time Chief of State, Mullah Omar, targets civilians through the increased use of non-discriminating weapons such as IEDs as well as demanding trigger pullers hit women as well as men who are "collaborators" with the "apostate" government or its "infidel crusader" supporters.

In short, Taliban is waging war on its own people. This is the single most counterproductive move which can be made by either the insurgent or his opponent. After all, the terrain over which the war is being fought, the terrain which will assure either victory or defeat, is the territory defined by the minds of the people. Killing one's own people is scarcely the best way to achieve success.

General McChrystal realized this years ago. He took the knowledge with him to Afghanistan and immediately, decisively acted to limit the number of deaths and wounds inflicted on civilians by friendly forces. The results were immediate and evident in the shift of trust to ISAF and Afghan forces as indicated by the flow of actionable intelligence by "concerned citizens" and the joining by civilians toting their "personal assault weapons" in fights against Taliban.

Day by day as the initiative has shifted to the ISAF and ANF, so also has Taliban killed more and more non-combatants. Everyday the reports evidence an ever growing propensity of Taliban and its associates to engage in indiscriminate, lethal violence against civilians or to use civilians as human shields.

The confirmation of the trend by the UN is comforting. It underscores the operational necessity of maintaining under whatsoever nomenclature the doctrine of "courageous restraint" regardless of the moaning of those who think we are giving the advantage to Taliban or placing our troops at undue risk. The UN report also demonstrates that Taliban's leadership either does not understand the nature of insurgency and how to win it or is thrashing about in desperation, hoping that terror will bring support and, thus, victory.

The histories of insurgencies demonstrate collectively that not only is it impossible to kill one's way to victory but also that it is possible, even highly likely, that one can kill one's way to defeat. While people when interviewed will cast blame on the government which is apparently failing to protect the non-combatants from harm, the reality is that people who may find themselves in the crosshairs blame (and detest) those who pull the triggers. If it is the insurgents who are doing the killing, it will be the insurgents who get the blame along with loathing and hatred.

The observer can only give Taliban a thumbs-up for utter idiocy. It is to be hoped the Mighty Warriors For Sharia and Allah keep up their work. It will only serve to assure their defeat.

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