Vassilios Damiras
(Counterterrorism Expert based in USA)


 The famous military terms counterterrorism and counterinsurgency dominated the political and military lexicons after the brutal terrorist attacks organized by al Qaeda against the Twins Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001. Counter terrorism apply to military operation executed by U.S. Special Forces and unmanned Predator aircrafts. These Special Forces operations are specifically designed to capture or killed “high-value targets.”

 Counterinsurgency know as COIN is applied to incorporate to those military, political, paramilitary, economic, psychological, and civic actions taken by the U.S. Armed Forces to defeat insurgency. This combined approach and effort strongly requires a great number of ground troops for an extended period of time.

General Stanley McChrystal, who was selected on May 11, 2009 to lead the American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, selected a counterinsurgency plan similar to Iraq. His military background includes counterterrorism and counterinsurgency experience. He had been of the Joint Special Operation Command. This strategic command comprises American elite units such as, U.S. Army’s Delta Force and the U.S. Navy’s SEAL. During that time he headed the operation to capture Saddam Hussein and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

 McChrystal argued that conventional warfare does not work in Afghanistan. From a conventional standpoint, the killing of two insurgents in a group of ten leaves eight remaining: 10-2=8. From the insurgent standpoint, those two killed likely related to many others who will want vengeance. If civilian casualties occurred, that number will be much higher. Therefore, the death of the two creates more willing recruits: 10 minus 2 equals 20 (or more) rather than 8. He goes on saying that for eight years the “attrition” approach that has been executed in Afghanistan by American and NATO forces has not bring the results that the military leadership wants to achieve.

 According to McChrystal, for the American government to achieve a decisive victory in the Afghan theater of war needs to implement an effective “offensive” operation in counterinsurgency. This kind of operation takes from the insurgent what he cannot afford to lose-control of the population. He argues, we must think of offensive operation not simply as those that target militants, but ones that earn the trust and support of the people while denying influence and access to the Taliban and al Qaeda insurgents.

 In addition, he argues that the American and NATO forces need to stop been preoccupied with protection of their own forces, The allied forces have operated in a manner that distances them-physically and psychotically-from the people who seek to safeguard and protect. Furthermore, they run the risk of strategic defeat by pursuing tactical wins that cause civilian casualties or unnecessary collateral damage.

 General McChrystal asked for 40,000 troops but he got 30,000 troops from U.S. President Barack Obama. NATO roughly sent about 5,000 troops. Still the U.S. forces do most of the fighting. NATO allies implement restrictions to their troops to fight.  Usually, they prefer to fight during day time. However, the Canadians, British, Australian, and French Foreign Legion have show incredible courage. In addition, Afghanistan’s history over the last three decades makes Afghans especially very reluctant to choose sides. That creates serious challenges for the allies. It is imperative that NATO challenge the Afghan population to make a public and irrevocable stand in favor of the National Afghan government. If they manage to convince the Afghans to adopt such a stand, the NATO is obliged to back them up when insurgents menacing them. However, that finds two obstacles; first the Afghans know that the central government is also corrupt.  Second, for an ordinary Afghan, the biggest obstacle to taking such a stand is the insurgents’ effective utilization of propaganda and of course the use of violence.

 Without a doubt the Taliban and al Qaeda insurgents clearly understand the criticality of the information environment and they recognize the significance of propaganda in obtaining their military goals. In some ways, the media environment creates an uneven playing field that favors the insurgents and they continuously and relentlessly use it to their advantage. Moreover, they share common religious, tribal, and ethnic ties; a language; and a much deeper understanding of the Afghan culture, traditions, and way of life.

 To counter this propaganda, the new American/NATO strategy established the Afghan National Development Strategy. It embraces three visions: the political, the socio-economic, and security. Some projects affect each of these. For example, roads are very important in Afghanistan and cross all lines of effort. This specific strategy identifies and recognizes six other cross-cutting political/socio-economic examples: regional cooperation, counter-narcotics, anticorruption, gender equality, capacity development, and environmental management. Moreover, Task Force Bayonet focuses on governance, development, and security. These three goals are nesting with the Afghanistan National Development Strategy. This new strategic effort has brought some American/NATO success.

 On June 10, 2010, General McChrystal said that the International Assistance Force (ISAF) will delay the offensive in Kandahar region, in order to reexamine and reevaluate the operation. In addition, he said that the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) are on track to obtain force levels goals for the year 2010 (more 130,000 and 100,000 respectively), with 85 percent of ANA units incorporated with ISAF units. Finally, McChrystal argue that the U.S. Special Forces have tripled in Afghan theater of war and 120 Taliban leaders have killed or captured.

 It is anticipated fighting in Afghanistan to be intensified despite the delay in Kandahar area campaign. Nonetheless, it is evident that the U.S. Department of Defense reevaluates its strategy and tactics. U.S. Defense Secretary Dr. Robert M. Gates wants to measure the success of the surge. Also, many U.S. strategists question the plan to negotiate with moderate Taliban. In addition, many commentators question the commitment of the Obama administration to defeat the Taliban. They fear due to domestic issues the American president will withdraw in order, to save money or redirect this spending to domestic issues such as, health care or various stimulus economic programs. Moreover, signs illustrate due to global recession and economic woes some NATO allies want to withdraw from Afghanistan, in order to save money. Specifically, Greece, Italy, and Spain are in deep economic troubles.

Despite all these military, political and economic challenges, it is evident that more effort is needed to convince Afghans that the insurgency is failing. Furthermore, the United States and her allies need to be committed for a long term fight in Afghanistan and a long term reconstruction. It is imperative that the Obama administration understands the geostrategic significance of Afghanistan. If America and NATO stick to this counterinsurgency plan the results can create a fruitful and victorious environment for NATO armed forces.
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