Friday, August 10, 2007

If I wanted to be listened to, I'd speak of Friedman Units

I have frequently gone on about the absurdity of using air power to deal with an insurgency -- especially in a country where we claimed to prevail four years ago. To me, it is simply self-evident that you don't attack your own territory with airplanes.

It appears the willingest folks in the coalition of the willing now agree:

UK officer calls for US special forces to quit Afghan hotspot

High civilian toll as teams rely on air strikes to provide cover

Tension between British and American commanders in southern Afghanistan erupted into the open yesterday as a senior UK military officer said he had asked the US to withdraw its special forces from a volatile area that was crucial in the battle against the Taliban.

British and Nato defence officials have consistently expressed concern about US tactics, notably air strikes, which kill civilians, sabotaging the battle for "hearts and minds" and infuriating Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president.

Des Browne, the defence secretary, recently raised the issue with Robert Gates, his US counterpart, and Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Nato's secretary general, admitted last month that an increasing number of civilian casualties was undermining support for alliance troops. He said Nato commanders had changed the rules of engagement, ordering their troops to hold their fire in situations where civilians appeared to be at risk.

Yesterday, a senior British commander was quoted in the New York Times as saying that in Sangin, in the north of Helmand province, which had been calm for a month, there was no longer a need for special forces. "There aren't large bodies of Taliban to fight any more," he said. "We are dealing with small groups and we are trying to kick-start reconstruction and development."

Twelve-man teams of US special forces had been criticised for relying on air strikes for cover when they believed they were confronted by large groups of Taliban fighters and their supporters.

Unnamed British officers were quoted yesterday as saying the US had caused the lion's share of casualties in their area and that after 18 months of heavy fighting since British forces arrived in Helmand they were finally making headway in securing key areas, but were now trying to win back support from people whose lives had been devastated by bombing.
To the army with laser-guided, video-equipped hammers, all the world looks like a nail. And those hammers are breaking everything they touch.


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