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Thread: Afghanistan: US Marines Pushing into Taliban Areas

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    Default Afghanistan: US Marines Pushing into Taliban Areas

    US Marines battle hard during Afghan offensive

    By Ben Sheppard – 11 hours ago

    GARMSIR, Afghanistan (AFP) — Since 4,000 US Marines pushed into Taliban-controlled areas of southern Afghanistan on Thursday, one company has been in a constant firefight with the insurgents, the military said.

    Troops from Echo company of the 2/8 infantry battalion flew in by helicopter to Mian Poshteh, a key canal and road junction in Helmand province, as part of President Barack Obama's efforts to finally defeat the Islamist militants.

    The 200 Marines fighting to hold the position arrived at dawn on Thursday, and they were still engaged in fierce combat through the weekend, Major Dan Gaskell told AFP at nearby Camp Delhi.

    "Echo company landed by the canal intersection and set up shop," he said late Saturday. "They have been fighting to hold that position.

    "The enemy really wants it back, and have been doing everything they can to dislodge Echo. That continues."

    The US has called in helicopter gunships three times to help the Marines, Gaskell said, including one attack using a Hellfire missile.

    He said about 40 Taliban fighters were using small arms, rocket-propelled grenades and rockets against the Marines, who have based themselves in a walled compound.

    "The enemy tactic is to conduct a feint attack from one compass direction, then fire from a second direction, and follow up with a proper attack from a third," he said.

    "They have shown the ability to switch back and forth, so the combination may come from any angle."

    One Marine was killed by hostile fire in the first day of the battle, while at least two others have suffered chronic heat exhaustion in the scorching temperatures and had to be evacuated by helicopter.

    "Mian Poshteh is the most difficult situation in the current operation," Gaskell said of the site 25 kilometres (15 miles) south of Camp Delta in the Garmsir district of Helmand.

    "The enemy are against a 200-plus Marine company, which is the most feared thing in the world. But we have rules of engagement and destroying everything in the area is not our intent. We fight back in a proportional way."

    The Helmand River valley is criss-crossed with canals and irrigation ditches built by the US in the 1950s and 1960s to promote agriculture in the region, but the main crop is now opium which funds much of the Islamist insurgency.

    "The terrain is pretty tricky and easy to get bogged down in, especially with the weight of gear that Marines carry," Gaskell said.

    "The Hellfire missile was fired after the company commander had spent eight hours trying to manoeuvre in on one pocket of resistance. We knew from live aerial video there were no civilians there."

    He said another air attack, on Saturday afternoon, was "a helicopter rocket and gun run" that had either killed those targeted or forced them to flee the tree line from where they were firing on the Marines.

    Operation Khanjar, which involved thousands of Marines moving into the Helmand valley to extend the reach of the Afghan central government, has faced generally light resistance.

    But US commanders say they expect their troops to soon be hit by counter-attacks.

    "The enemy assumes that within several days we'll be leaving but we're not going anywhere," Lieutenant Colonel Christian Cabaniss, in charge of the US operations around Garmsir, said.

    "We've picked good ground, close to the population centres, and we're going to stay.

    "But we do want to know why the enemy have chosen to fight at Mian Poshteh. Perhaps there's a high value commander there."

    Obama's plan is to improve security in Helmand so that locals reject the hardline Taliban in favour of the central government, allowing international troops who have been in the country since 2001 to eventually withdraw.

    The area south of Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand, is the world?s biggest opium-growing region and a route for Taliban fighters joining the insurgency from across the Pakistan border.

    Copyright © 2009 AFP. All rights reserved.

    AP Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AVHn3dYt_0

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    Default Re: Afghanistan: US Marines Pushing into Taliban Areas


    Why Obama's Afghan War is Different
    By Aryn Baker / KABUL Sunday, Jul. 05, 2009
    Marines take cover as a 500 lb bomb explodes on a compound after the Marines took two days of enemy fire from the position on July 3, 2009 in Main Poshteh, Afghanistan.
    Joe Raedle / Getty

    So far, so good in the first major offensive of President Barack Obama's war in Afghanistan. For the past four days, 4,000 U.S. Marines and 650 Afghan soldiers have been fighting their way into the southern reaches of Afghanistan's Helmand River Valley, hoping to clear out insurgents there. But other than one limited area of fierce resistance, the fighting has generally been limited to small-scale skirmishes in which few Taliban have been killed, because most of the insurgents appear to have slipped away — as guerrillas tend to do when confronted by overwhelming firepower. More important to U.S. goals, however, is that no civilians have been hurt, because the purpose of the operation is to secure the local population against the Taliban.

    Even though he says it's too early to predict success, General Stanley McChrystal, the new commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, is satisfied that the Helmand mission is moving in the right direction. "The operations are not aimed at the enemy force; they are aimed at taking away the population from the enemy," he told TIME. "What we are trying to do is change the dynamics in the area where we are operating." In order to do that, Marines are leaving their armored Humvees and sitting down with village elders and tribal leaders to assess their needs, and assuring them that this time, the Americans will be sticking around. (See pictures of the new U.S. offensive.)

    Operation Khanjar — Pashto for "dagger" — is the first test of the Obama Administration's new strategy for Afghanistan. No longer treated as a secondary concern to Iraq, the Afghanistan theater will have been by 17,000 more American soldiers by this fall. And under McChrystal, they'll be waging a different kind of war. Limited troop availability in the past meant that while NATO forces could clear an area of insurgents, they had been unable to hold the terrain. Now, the plan is for the Marines to set up combat posts in villages to provide the residents with lasting security. Still, some Afghans are skeptical. "I hope this operation gives a positive result," says Haji Nimatullah, a businessman in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, by telephone. "But I am not optimistic. [These] operations are like the cat-and-mouse cartoon where the mouse escapes when the cat attacks, but when the cat is gone the mouse comes back and starts again." (See pictures of challenges British troops were facing in Helmand in 2008.)

    But the U.S. forces are aware of the danger cited by Nimatullah. "What makes Operation Khanjar different from those that have occurred before is the massive size of the force introduced, the speed at which it will insert, and the fact that where we go we will stay, and where we stay, we will hold, build and work toward transition of all security responsibilities to Afghan forces," said Brigadier General Larry Nicholson, the Marine Commander, in a statement.

    So far, only one Marine has been killed, and several have been wounded. (In eastern Afghanistan a U.S. soldier appears to have been captured by the Taliban, in an event unrelated to the Helmand operation.) Casualty figures are likely to rise, however, because the Taliban, having declined to go toe-to-toe with the Marines and instead melted into the civilian population, are likely to resort to asymmetrical warfare tactics such as Improvised Explosive Devices. On Saturday an IED strike killed two U.S. troops in eastern Afghanistan, while another on Thursday killed two British troops elsewhere in Helmand. Stationing the Marines among the local population will increase the risk of such attacks, until the U.S. forces are able to win over residents through providing development aid and security. To do so, they will have to overcome deeply entrenched suspicions of American aims in the region, and resentment over civilian casualties inflicted during previous U.S. operations. "This operation will cause even more insecurity," says Joma Khan, a 32-year old unemployed man in Lashkar Gah. "Because when people lose their family members or their houses gets destroyed, then they join Taliban." (Read "Diplomatic Surge: Can Obama's Team Tame the Taliban?")

    Aware of the danger, McChrystal has made the protection of civilians the central tenet of his new approach to fighting the Taliban, even going so far as to limit the use of aerial bombardment to the most extreme circumstances — a turnabout for U.S. ground forces that have grown dependent on air support. McChrystal has also declared in a soon-to-be-released tactical directive that soldiers should hold their fire if there is even the slightest risk of a civilian presence in the target zone. "Suppose the insurgent occupies an enemy home or village and engages you from there, with the clear idea that when you respond you are going to create collateral damage," explains McChrystal. "He's going to blame that on you. Even if you kill the insurgents, what happens is you have made the insurgency wider. You are going to run into more IEDs. You are going to run into more insurgents, [and] at the end of the day you are going to suffer more casualties."

    The new directive will certainly make the fight harder in the short term, but already it is winning kudos from Afghans. "Already I am hearing a lot of positive feedback [about the Helmand operation]," says Afghanistan's Interior Minister, Hanif Atmar. "What was actually very well received and welcomed by the Afghan people was that [McChrystal] placed a bench mark for his success: He would like to measure his success in terms of how much he has protected the population, how much security he is providing them."

    The Marines, however, are a temporary solution. They will remain in Helmand at least through the Afghan presidential elections slated for August 20, where they will assist the Afghan security forces secure polling places in anticipation of Taliban attacks. What happens beyond that, however, remains a question. "The military can help set the conditions for success but it is not sufficient for success," U.S. Ambassador, and former ISAF commander, Karl Eikenberry told TIME. "The military can help deliver security, but the military in and of itself cannot deliver a lasting peace, cannot deliver an accountable respected government, cannot deliver the necessary set of social services and sustainable economy that only the civilian side can provide for."

    The next step in the new Afghan war will be a comprehensive strategy that helps the Afghan government deliver the stability that comes from economic opportunity and a working justice system that allows Afghans to benefit from those opportunities. That kind of strategy, however, takes far more time than a military operation and requires patience — both for Afghans and the U.S. administration that is footing the bill.

    —With reporting by Shah Mahmood / Kabul

    Time Magazine

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    Default Re: Afghanistan: US Marines Pushing into Taliban Areas

    Are those big sandbag things in the picture in #2 carried by the troops and filled on site?

    If so, is that because the ground is too hard to dig weapon pits in, or for some other reason?
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    Default Re: Afghanistan: US Marines Pushing into Taliban Areas

    Quote Originally Posted by Rising Sun* View Post
    Are those big sandbag things in the picture in #2 carried by the troops and filled on site?

    If so, is that because the ground is too hard to dig weapon pits in, or for some other reason?
    I believe they're moving quickly, so they don't have time to construct elaborate bunkers. But I do think the ground is difficult there. I know NATO uses what I would called prefabricated fortifications I would almost call inta'forts...


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    Default Re: Afghanistan: US Marines Pushing into Taliban Areas

    Nickdfresh,

    The picture you posted are of a product called Hesco barriers. Those, along with cement T-barriers, are used throughout the AOR. Generally, the smaller than FOB or PB, the more Hesco barriers used. They are able to be assembled quickly by combat engineers, and provide a reasonable defense while using a readily available natural resource in SW Asia and the Middle East - namely sand. I'm not sure who came up with the idea, but they saved my hind quarters numerous times during mortar, small arms, and rocket attacks.

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    Default Re: Afghanistan: US Marines Pushing into Taliban Areas

    Quote Originally Posted by Non_Sequitor View Post
    Nickdfresh,

    The picture you posted are of a product called Hesco barriers. Those, along with cement T-barriers, are used throughout the AOR. Generally, the smaller than FOB or PB, the more Hesco barriers used. They are able to be assembled quickly by combat engineers, and provide a reasonable defense while using a readily available natural resource in SW Asia and the Middle East - namely sand. I'm not sure who came up with the idea, but they saved my hind quarters numerous times during mortar, small arms, and rocket attacks.
    Invented by a Brit who is now a millionaire and supports the troop greatly.

    http://www.hesco.com/

    I'm impressed at the one that comes out of the container.

    In truth they are an adaptation of a much older combat engineering method.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gabion
    The \'eathen

    The \'eathen in \'is blindness bows down to wood an\' stone;
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    An\' then comes up the regiment an\' pokes the \'eathen out.

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    Default Re: Afghanistan: US Marines Pushing into Taliban Areas

    2nd of foot,

    Thanks for the info!

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    Default Re: Afghanistan: US Marines Pushing into Taliban Areas

    Ya know!, these idiots are even killing their own kind. Thats what gets me. I can understand them killing the Americans but why their own people? In the name of religion??!! i just don't get it! I just don't get it!!

    Toronto Star Newspaper...
    KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – A bus packed with Afghan civilians hit a roadside bomb near the southern city of Kandahar today, killing 30 people and wounding 39, underscoring the dangers civilians face as the eight-year war turns increasingly violent.
    Nine women and seven children were among the dead, said provincial police chief, Sardar Mohammad Zazai.
    Militants are planting more roadside bombs than ever in Afghanistan. The explosives are intended to kill U.S., NATO and Afghan troops but kill far more Afghan civilians than they do soldiers.
    "The enemies of Afghanistan are planting mines on the main highway and killing innocent women and children," Zazai said.
    The bus hit the bomb on the western outskirts of Kandahar city, in a militant-controlled district called Maiwand.
    Among the 39 wounded, some severely injured passengers were taken to a NATO base for treatment, said Bismullah Khan, the police chief in Maiwand. Others were taken to the main hospital in Kandahar.
    "An explosion hit the bus. I don't know what happened. When I came to, I got out of the bus and saw that the bus was totally wrecked," Lal Jan, a survivor, said while in Kandahar's hospital.
    Another survivor, an elderly woman named Zulaikha Bibi, cried over the death of her daughter-in-law. Two of her nephews were wounded.
    The bus had been travelling from the western province of Nimroz to Kandahar city, a trip that winds through some of the country's most dangerous districts in Helmand and Kandahar provinces.
    U.S. and NATO troops have long come under criticism for the civilian deaths they have caused, often in airstrikes. But U.S. military officials say they believe the Taliban will also face a popular backlash for all the civilian deaths caused by militant-planted roadside bombs.A U.N. report issued Saturday said August was the deadliest month of the year for civilians because of violence from the insurgency. A total of 1,500 civilians died in Afghanistan from January through August, up from 1,145 for the same period of 2008.
    Wiki is ok. History Channel is ok.
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    Default Re: Afghanistan: US Marines Pushing into Taliban Areas

    Ya know!, these idiots are even killing their own kind. Thats what gets me. I can understand them killing the Americans but why their own people? In the name of religion??!! i just don't get it! I just don't get it!!
    Dont look for explanations, that muslem talishit simply love to kill people.

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    Default Re: Afghanistan: US Marines Pushing into Taliban Areas

    Quote Originally Posted by Panzerknacker View Post
    Dont look for explanations, that muslem talishit simply love to kill people.
    Some of the locals might have a similar view about Western forces which have killed their people for no good reason.

    Cover-up compromises campaign in Afghanistan

    EDITORIAL

    May 12, 2009


    The harm done by civilian deaths has been compounded by the ADF.

    IF THE war in Afghanistan is to be won, the battle for Afghan hearts and minds must first be won. The surest way to lose that battle is to discount the lives of Afghan civilians killed in military operations against the Taliban, whose alliance with al-Qaeda provoked the invasion that ended their rule. Indeed, in Iraq, insurgents' disregard for civilian lives backfired as local forces that had been opposed to foreign troops turned against al-Qaeda and its allies. In Afghanistan, however, the US and its allies are losing support because of the civilian toll they have caused.

    Civilian deaths are highly damaging in themselves, but when foreign forces fail to apologise properly and provide redress, the backlash is potentially disastrous. That is why a cover-up of the findings of an Australian military investigation into the killing and maiming of Afghan civilians in Oruzgan province in July 2006 is of immense concern.

    On the whole, Australian forces appear to have acknowledged such deaths with full apologies and compensation. By contrast, the US military has at times seemed downright careless about the civilian toll in air strikes. Human Rights Watch estimated last year that air strikes had killed at least 1633 civilians from 2006 to 2007, and allied forces had killed another 828 civilians by the end of last year.

    The Australian Defence Force, however, has generally sought to live up to its reputation for taking care to minimise civilian casualties. Indeed, the ADF has objected to US operations that caused civilian deaths. As reported today, a US missile strike that killed several children in June 2006 triggered a heated dispute between US and Australian military officials. The Defence Department is conducting inquiries into allegations that Australian troops caused the deaths of Afghan civilians in two incidents this year. In January, four civilians were allegedly killed in an operation to find those responsible for the death of special forces soldier Greg Sher. Five children died in an incident in February.

    Yet, after an Afghan man was killed, a woman blinded and her daughter maimed when their car was fired on in July 2006, allegedly by an Australian SAS patrol, no less an authority than Defence Force chief Angus Houston told a Senate committee hearing in February 2007: "We investigated it (the shooting) and we found no evidence of Australian troops involved in what was described as happening." The Age has uncovered information that directly contradicts that statement and implicates Australian soldiers.

    A defence source said pressure may have been applied to personnel in Afghanistan to cover up the shooting. Information about Australian involvement is believed to have been stored on ADF computers in Afghanistan. This reveals that an Australian SAS patrol reported a "contact" - meaning they fired their weapons - in the area that the family was travelling at the same time as their car was hit. It is almost certain Air Chief Marshal Houston was unaware of this information when questioned by the Senate Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee.

    There are several grounds for a full, independent inquiry. The Defence Force chief's authority has been undermined from within. Doubt has been cast on the ethics and integrity of the military. What else may have been covered up? Is there a danger that SAS soldiers, who operate anonymously, hold a special status that makes them less accountable than the rest of the military?

    Former Oruzgan province governor Abdul Hakim Monib said a senior Australian officer told him Australians were responsible. "They expressed their sorrow for the incident and they said, 'We thought they were the enemy.' " The SAS had reason to believe that taxis were ferrying Taliban fighters to combat hot spots. The Taliban moves among civilians and uses them as human shields. But if a genuine, tragic mistake was made, why the cover-up? Defence officials agree that proper investigations are vital for a military to assess the conduct of its forces and ensure that civilian deaths are minimised. Above all, without an open inquiry, Australian forces cannot hope to win the trust and support of the Afghan people.

    Legislator Haji Abdul Khaliq, who represents Oruzgan, lost his brother-in-law in the July 2006 shooting. His wife was blinded and his daughter lost a leg. He is furious that those responsible have not apologised nor been called to account. "People were encouraged by the Australian (force's actions) to go and join the Taliban," Mr Khaliq says. Australian forces' relations with the Afghan people cannot be repaired if responsibility is denied. Any ADF members who do not understand that should not be in Afghanistan. The killings and cover-up have undermined the military campaign and cannot be left unexamined.
    http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/edi...0511-b0jc.html
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    Default Re: Afghanistan: US Marines Pushing into Taliban Areas

    It's really a no win situation for western forces with regards to civilian casualties. Recently a U.S./ANA patrol was ambushed in an Afghan village. Women and children were seen bringing ammunition to the insurgents that had occupied the high ground that surrounded the approach to the village. Because civilians were present in the village, American artillery commanders refused a request for indirect fire support. After taking many casualties, a pair of Marine Corps Cobras came on seen and offered CAS long enough for the troops to withdraw. The Cobras arrived almost an hour after the ambush had begun, and a more timely arrival may have reduced the amount of troops killed or injured. My question is: If women and children were assisting the insurgents, they are no longer protected as civilians, right? According to that logic, though, had an artillery strike gone down, then there would have been a huge out-cry from the Afghan populace and gov't for the "needless" deaths of civilians. I'm not sure what the right call would have been, but it's tragic IMHO that our troops in the field can't rely on support should they fall victim to a well laid ambush. It would also have been tragic had that artillery strike been approved and large numbers of women and children been killed that probably had no say in the matter of helping the insurgents or not.

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    Default Re: Afghanistan: US Marines Pushing into Taliban Areas

    Quote Originally Posted by Non_Sequitor View Post
    It's really a no win situation for western forces with regards to civilian casualties.
    Naturally.

    What can we expect as the invaders?

    How would you feel if the position was reversed and the Taliban were trying to control your town, city or region militarily?

    Probably the same as me. Which wouldn't be welcoming, or non-violent.

    Doesn’t alter the fact that I think we were justified in rooting out the bastards in Afghanistan, but I never would have argued for a pointless occupation of an essentially ‘unoccupiable’ country.

    Quote Originally Posted by Non_Sequitor View Post
    Women and children were seen bringing ammunition to the insurgents that had occupied the high ground that surrounded the approach to the village. ..... My question is: If women and children were assisting the insurgents, they are no longer protected as civilians, right?
    Or perhaps they should be seen as national heroes like American women who fought for the principles which liberated the American colony from British rule so that America could extend its great principles of liberty into other parts of the globe?

    Women participated by:
    • Washing and cooking for the soldiers
    • Following armies as they marched
    • Producing goods for soldiers
    • Delivering secret messages
    • Fighting disguised as men
    • Boycotting British goods
    • Spying on the British

    Margaret Corbin used her own name and appears to have been accepted by her fellow soldiers. She served with her husband in the artillery in the Battle of Ft. Washington where they were both wounded, Margaret losing part of her arm and a breast from grapeshot.

    Women Soldiers
    Some women participated in the military side of the war. Mary Ludwig Hays, was nicknamed Molly Pitcher because she carried water to American soldiers during the Battle of Monmouth in 1778, and operated his cannon after he fell in battle. Betty Zane saved a fort that was under siege by Native Americans by carrying gunpowder to replenish the depleted supply of the colonial forces.

    Rebecca Barrett, wife of a Concord, Massachusetts, militia colonel, hid military stores and equipment on her farm, then remained at home to protect her family and property from the British. She fed the British soldiers, but refused money thrown at her, commenting that "we are commanded to feed our enemy," but their coins were "the price of blood".

    Mary Hagidorn, upon hearing the order by a Captain Hager for the women and children to retire to the cellar, said: "Captain, I shall not go to that cellar should the enemy come. I will take a spear which I can use as well as any man and help defend the fort." The captain, seeing her determination, answered, "Then take a spear, Mary, and be ready at the pickets to repel an attack." She cheerfully obeyed.

    At Pepperell, Massachusetts, following the men's departure for Concord, the women met, formed a female military company, dressed as men, took up arms, and patrolled the town. Prudence Cummings, elected captain, captured a Tory officer at gun point.

    Other Patriot women concealed army dispatches and letters containing sensitive military information underneath their petticoats as they rode through enemy territory to deliver it. Deborah Champion, Sarah Decker, Harriet Prudence Patterson Hall, and Lydia Darragh managed to sneak important information past the British to their American compatriots.
    http://womenhistory.blogspot.com/200...evolution.html



    Quote Originally Posted by Non_Sequitor View Post
    According to that logic, though, had an artillery strike gone down, then there would have been a huge out-cry from the Afghan populace and gov't for the "needless" deaths of civilians. I'm not sure what the right call would have been, but it's tragic IMHO that our troops in the field can't rely on support should they fall victim to a well laid ambush. It would also have been tragic had that artillery strike been approved and large numbers of women and children been killed that probably had no say in the matter of helping the insurgents or not.
    The major flaw in the discussion above and in the Western incursion into Afghanistan is that it is assumed that Afghanistan is a nation and that it has a united people who share a unifying national identity.

    It isn’t and they don’t, so it’s a waste of time trying to subjugate or even negotiate with a ‘nation’ and a ‘people’ which don’t’ exist. Pretty much like trying to do the same in South Vietnam when, for example, most of the peasants in most of the country had no connection with or understanding of the remote ‘national’ government or its reasons for involving external forces to try to maintain the position of the privileged classes opposed to the North Vietnamese determined to displace those privileged classes. Meanwhile detached bureaucratic and military policy wonks dreamed up heartwarming bullshit like ‘hearts and minds’ campaigns which (apart from never supporting them anywhere like they supported relatively much more expensive but relatively much less effective military campaigns) were doomed to failure when the corrupt central government supported by the policy wonks couldn’t have given a shit about the people in the boonies being supported and defended by an extraordinary bunch of hugely brave people who lived with; trained; and defended them in spite of a general lack of interest and support from the central command of both the South Vietnam and American forces.

    The same shit is happening again in Afghanistan, with the same loss of lives to no point in the interests of the big end of town which can always be relied upon to put its hand over its heart for all patriotic purposes except actually putting their own useless and money-grubbing lives on the line.
    ..
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    Default Re: Afghanistan: US Marines Pushing into Taliban Areas

    [QUOTE=Rising Sun*;161003]"Naturally.
    What can we expect as the invaders?
    How would you feel if the position was reversed and the Taliban were trying to control your town, city or region militarily?
    Probably the same as me. Which wouldn't be welcoming, or non-violent.
    Doesn’t alter the fact that I think we were justified in rooting out the bastards in Afghanistan, but I never would have argued for a pointless occupation of an essentially ‘unoccupiable’ country."

    Agreed. I'm certainly not saying that I believed they would welcome us with open arms. The Taliban is the "devil they know", and we are certainly the opposite. I imagine that life really isn't that much different for the average Afghan villager under the Taliban, but it's certainly far different with foreign troops on every corner. I suppose we're viewed much the same as the Soviet occupiers. Something needed to be done though, and now the question is how do we move forward.

    "Or perhaps they should be seen as national heroes like American women who fought for the principles which liberated the American colony from British rule so that America could extend its great principles of liberty into other parts of the globe?"

    If I were an Afghani Taliban supporter, I could guarantee that they would be seen as national heroes - assuming the Afghanis view themselves as a nation. That's simply a matter of perspective. My point was geared more towards the futility of trying to protect a populace that could largely fit into both protected and combatant categories. The "hearts and minds" strategy is largely lost at this point after 8 years in country with no appreciable progress in infrastructure or security. I care not at all about extending "freedom and democracy" to the world, but I do care a great deal about protecting ourselves and our allies.

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    Default Re: Afghanistan: US Marines Pushing into Taliban Areas

    Quote Originally Posted by Non_Sequitor View Post
    My point was geared more towards the futility of trying to protect a populace that could largely fit into both protected and combatant categories. The "hearts and minds" strategy is largely lost at this point after 8 years in country with no appreciable progress in infrastructure or security.
    Vietnam, all over again.

    Which, despite countless papers written by people who were there and a vast multiple of papers by people who weren't there still hasn't got the basic lesson through: You ain't gonna win my heart and my mind by landing in my backyard and telling me that my neighbours are my enemy, even if, as was often the case in Vietnam, they are a bunch of bandits ripping me off at every opportunity. Then again, you could win my heart and my mind if you showed me that I could successfully resist these VC and similar bandits AND that this will give me and my family permanent safety. Which for anyone with a history book going back to about 1950 tells me ain't gonna happen as you'll desert me after raising my hopes to the point that I do something that will ensure I get severe punishment or death after you piss off, having failed in another of your great exercises in human liberty. (This is a general comment using Western intervention in Vietnam as an example, but not an anti-American comment as other Western nations have done the same thing.)


    Quote Originally Posted by Non_Sequitor View Post
    I care not at all about extending "freedom and democracy" to the world, but I do care a great deal about protecting ourselves and our allies.
    Agreed.

    Which is why I say we should have had a crushing raid into Afghanistan to discourage its controllers and Al Qaeda from basing their raids on us there, and told them clearly that wherever they go the same will happen to them and their hosts.

    We, and the essentially ungovernable in modern terms Afghanis, wouldn't have the current problems if we'd done that.

    And Pakistan would have been forced to confront and choose about its Taliban / Islamic radicalism duplicity a long time ago, thus depriving Al Qaeda types of their most recent refuge.
    Last edited by Rising Sun*; 10-02-2009 at 10:56 AM.
    ..
    A rational army would run away.
    Montesquieu

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Afghanistan: Narrowing Focus?

    White House eyeing narrower war effort
    Top officials challenge General McChrystal's assessment

    By Scott Wilson and Anne E. Kornblut
    The Washington Post
    updated 1:02 a.m. ET, Fri., Oct . 2, 2009

    Senior White House officials have begun to make the case for a policy shift in Afghanistan that would send few, if any, new combat troops to the country and instead focus on faster military training of Afghan forces, continued assassinations of al-Qaeda leaders and support for the government of neighboring Pakistan in its fight against the Taliban.

    In a three-hour meeting Wednesday at the White House, senior advisers challenged some of the key assumptions in Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's blunt assessment of the nearly eight-year-old war, which President Obama has said is being fought to destroy al-Qaeda and its allies in Afghanistan and the ungoverned border areas of Pakistan.

    McChrystal, commander of the 100,000 NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, has asked Obama to quickly endorse his call for a change in military strategy and approve the additional resources he needs to retake the initiative from the resurgent Taliban.

    But White House officials are resisting McChrystal's call for urgency, which he underscored Thursday during a speech in London, and questioning important elements of his assessment, which calls for a vast expansion of an increasingly unpopular war. One senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the meeting, said, "A lot of assumptions -- and I don't want to say myths, but a lot of assumptions -- were exposed to the light of day."

    Among them, according to three senior administration officials who attended the meeting, is McChrystal's contention that the Taliban and al-Qaeda share the same strategic interests and that the return to power of the Taliban would automatically mean a new sanctuary for al-Qaeda.

    Leading up to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Taliban government provided much of al-Qaeda's leadership with a safe haven before being toppled by U.S. forces later that year. Since then, some White House officials say, al-Qaeda has not regained its foothold even as the Taliban insurgency has strengthened.

    The deliberations over McChrystal's assessment are expected to last several weeks, and officials who participated in Wednesday's meeting say it is too early to discern what direction Obama intends to take.

    Although participants described the discussions as fluid, divisions are becoming clearer between those in the administration who want to broaden the U.S. effort, including sending in additional combat forces, and those who want to adopt a narrower anti-terrorism effort focused primarily on al-Qaeda.

    Senior White House officials asked some of the sharpest questions, according to participants and others who have been briefed on the meeting, while the uniformed military, including Gen. David H. Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command, did not take issue with McChrystal's assessment.

    According to White House officials involved in the meeting, Vice President Biden offered some of the more pointed challenges to McChrystal, who attended the session by video link from Kabul. One official said Biden played the role of "skeptic in chief," while other top officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, were muted in their comments.

    Clinton has given no public signals about whether she is inclined to side with Biden or with McChrystal. But Clinton often sees eye to eye with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who also has kept his views private. She met with Gates on Tuesday and has cleared her afternoon schedule for Friday to meet with her Afghanistan team.

    Biden has argued against increasing the number of U.S. combat troops in Afghanistan, currently scheduled to total 68,000 by the end of the year. He favors preserving the current force levels, stepping up Predator drone strikes on al-Qaeda leaders and increasing training for Afghan forces. Like many congressional Democrats, Biden is concerned that deploying more U.S. troops could be counterproductive, giving the Taliban more fodder to foment public opposition to the foreign occupation.

    McChrystal, whom Obama sent to Afghanistan in May after firing his predecessor, is making his case for additional resources publicly. In a speech Thursday at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, McChrystal said that "we must show resolve" and warned that "uncertainty disheartens our allies and emboldens our foes."

    Asked whether a more limited counterterrorism effort would succeed in Afghanistan, he said, "The short answer is: no. You have to navigate from where you are, not where you wish to be. A strategy that does not leave Afghanistan in a stable position is probably a short-sighted strategy."

    In the days leading up to the deliberations this week, senior White House officials emphasized what they say have been the administration's achievements against al-Qaeda, underscoring that defeating the terrorist organization, rather than rebuilding Afghanistan, has always been Obama's stated goal.

    After pledging in last year's presidential campaign to wind down the war in Iraq and commit more resources to Afghanistan, Obama concluded a policy review in March that, for the first time, considered the instability in Pakistan and Afghanistan as a single problem that demanded a comprehensive solution, including a large increase in civilian aid to both countries.

    Several senior Obama advisers argued this week that two significant events since then have changed the calculus on the ground.

    The Pakistani government's decision to reinstate Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry as the Supreme Court chief justice -- his removal had been a major source of domestic tension -- and challenge the Taliban insurgency in the Swat Valley has brought more stability to the U.S.-backed administration of President Asif Ali Zardari, White House officials say.

    At the same time, the tainted Aug. 20 presidential election in Afghanistan has cast doubt on the legitimacy of President Hamid Karzai's administration.

    "Eight months ago, if you had asked people which was worse, everybody would have said Pakistan is worse and Afghanistan is in good shape," one senior Obama adviser said. "Today we find out they had an election that wasn't clean, the Taliban is doing qualitatively better than we presumed and Pakistan is doing so much better."

    McChrystal's high-profile campaign on behalf of his assessment is forcing the White House to make its decision amid a widening debate on Capitol Hill and across the country. In his 66-page report, McChrystal warned that "failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum" within a year "risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible."

    Republican leaders in Congress have called on Obama to approve McChrystal's request quickly, but one presidential adviser noted: "In eight months, it is impossible to reverse eight years of neglect."

    "A lot of decisions were made out of a sense of urgency in the previous administration, and they turned out to be wrong-headed," said another senior administration official involved in Afghanistan policy. "Examining the options, testing assumptions, reviewing everything -- we're not talking months, just days and weeks, and it is well worth the time spent."

    Correspondent Anthony Faiola in London contributed to this report.

    © 2009 The Washington Post Company

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