UZBEEN, Afghanistan — In the Uzbeen valley, scene of the deadliest ambush on NATO troops in Afghanistan, Western commanders struggle with a new mindset that diplomacy, not massive firepower can beat the Taliban.No kidding. I'd say under the circumstances (those being that we're infidels and they're old fashioned tribal Muslims) it's bloody impossible (emphasis on the "bloody").
Just 60 kilometres (40 miles) from the Afghan capital, Uzbeen is an insurgent stronghold and shows the extent to which the Islamist militia dominates swathes of the countryside even so close to the seat of government.
The war has never been deadlier. This year has seen record Afghan civilian and foreign troop fatalities since the 2001 US-led invasion to oust the Taliban regime from power.
A new US battle plan to reverse the Taliban momentum, deny Al-Qaeda a safe haven and train Afghan forces to take responsibility is rooted in protecting the Afghan people in order to win hearts and minds.
Road testing General Stanley McChrystal's new strategy, NATO officers were determined to win favour with locals and restore sovereignty to Afghan security forces in the northern part of the valley.
So the French Foreign Legion launched one of their biggest operations of the eight-year war -- to open the road to a key village in northern Uzbeen and hold a meeting with local elders.
Within hours however the mission ran into trouble. Officers found out that 50 insurgents had gathered at Qaleh Eh Ye Kalan, the village where they had planned to arrive in triumph to consult the elders.
"We decided to organise the shura in another village," said a lieutenant colonel whose name cannot be revealed for security reasons.
But the people in that village were not told in time. And then the commanding officer took a wrong turn and was delayed even longer.
In the end, the shura was cancelled.
Operation Septentrion, which mobilised 1,000 crack troops from US Special Forces, the French Foreign Legion and Afghan police ended without achieving its objective.
Instead they killed one Taliban militant, and five US troops were wounded.
Commanding officer Colonel Benoit Durieux put on a brave face.
"It's a first step. The aim is to come back soon and that our successors continue our work," said Durieux, whose regiment goes home in January.
"We are dealing with insurgents rather than an insurgency. And the 'battle for hearts and minds' is difficult," he said...
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Yea Though We Walk Through the Valley of Death--We've Set Ourselves Up for Failure
NATO tries to woo 'em, not wound 'em, in Afghanistan, an "ingenious" strategy that works like this (from Yahoo! News):