A replay of Bunker Hill

Afghan fighters

By I. M. Mohsin

The operation code named ‘Mushtarak’, launched by the huge foreign forces along with some Afghan complement in Helmand has run into serious problems. Its projected aim was to provide security to the local people while dismantling ‘enemy’ strongholds in the same area. A tempestuous publicity campaign heralded the start of hostilities by the ISAF. Such media hype was considered necessary to warn the local people of the impending attacks. Many people, as such, migrated to other areas which would have caused great resentment among the afflicted Afghans. Subsequently, the foreign forces felt obliged to forbid any help to the Taliban by any resident. All such moves indicate that in nine years, the US army has not understood anything of the local culture which rules the roost, particularly when fighting the foreigners. If the Americans had heeded Gorbachev’s advice or that of their own ambassador in Kabul’s foreboding, they may have been better off. The real lesson that history teaches, as the Russians learnt the hard way after losing their Soviet Empire, is that atrocities by an awful power do not, generally, make the Afghans bend.

History also proves that despite the odds, they have always emerged successful. Licking its wounds caused by the exercise of vicious power, the aggrieved party waits to hit back. No wonder the Taliban, deriving strength from their history, took a serious dig at the foreign troops by saying that “the current occupiers of Afghanistan, like the Red Army will face defeat” on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the withdrawal of the defeated Russian troops.

In choosing the subject, I was influenced by the history of the American War of Independence. The ragtag force under George Washington conquered the Bunker Hill outpost of the British troops. Feeling outraged, the British commander rushed a strong contingent which drove the Americans away after some fighting. However, thereafter the US militia turned into Taliban. As the British forces started a withdrawal exercise, the Americans would waylay/ambush repeatedly with consequences for the then British ‘occupation’ force. This stands as a landmark development which finally led to the American Independence. It is difficult to make out how asymmetrical was the power between the parties then as compared with the AfPak tragedy. The strategy of the Afghans has always been a repeat of Bunker Hill. In fact, their battling prowess covers distinctly about 12 hundred years. The underlying hallmark of the same is that they have infinite patience in avenging the wrong that has been done to them more so by a foreigner. Read more of this post

Battle for Marjeh: The Taliban strong hold

Maulana Jalaluddin Roomi’s prediction indeed has come true: “The Giants come forward from Afghanistan and influence the world.”

A “massive build-up” is afoot for the battle of Marjeh, which is the strong-hold of Taliban in the Helmand province of Afghanistan. About fifteen thousand ground troops, reinforced by twenty thousand Afghan Army and police force will launch the offensive, supported by the entire US-NATO air power in Afghanistan. The objective is “to inflict a crushing defeat” on the Taliban, at Marjeh, which is considered “a bastion of Taliban power,” and set the momentum for their defeat in other areas, thus restoring government control over the territories of Afghanistan. Indeed, it is a very ambitious plan against the Taliban, who control thirty provinces, out of thirty four and rule the country-side. The surge of 30,000 American troops to be completed by August this year is expected to accomplish the task of restoring government control over Afghanistan.

The Google picture of Marjeh and the surrounding areas, gives a better explanation of the impending battle: Marjeh which lies about 15 KM west of Lashkargah – the provincial capital of Helmand is a plain sandy area with scattered mud huts, and a green belt to the south and the west, fed by the Helmand River. The green belt is sparsely populated with about 6-7000 people. The area is open, not at all suited for positional defence, nor for hit and run operations of the Taliban. In the vast open areas, the coalition air power and the mobile armoured troops would be able to drastically limit Taliban movement and their operational effectiveness. What kind of resistance, therefore the coalition forces are expecting for which the “massive build-up”, is taking place?

Taliban are well-versed in this game of fighting in the desert regions of South and the rugged mountains, for the last thirty years. They are the die-hard freedom fighters, motivated, self-assured and confident of victory against the occupation forces. Time is on their side. Their strategy for the battle of Marjeh therefore can be easily envisaged: They would rather hold Marjeh lightly, with a maximum of 2-3000 die-hard fighters, who would fight to the last man, killing as many of coalition forces, as possible. The use of strong and dispersed defenses, reinforced by IEDs ‘Omar Bombs’ and booby traps, would cause attrition on the attacking troops. Under-ground defensive net-work, on the pattern of Hezbollah’s defenses against Israelis in the 2006 war, would add to the strength of the resistance.

The bulk of the Taliban fighting force in Helmand area is estimated at 10-12000, which is likely to operate around the combat zone of Marjeh, to carryout interdiction of supply lines, logistics, support bases and may engage the coalition forces from several directions. While the battle of Marjeh rages, which will be long and bloody, the Taliban operating in other provinces, under their control will intensify their activities against the occupation forces, causing dispersion and greater attrition. The story of total defeat of the British Army of 1898, will not be repeated because, the air power of the coalition forces will save the day. A stalemate will occur. The result of this battle as well as the war in Afghanistan is the real contest between two opposing will. The coalition forces are demoralized and defeated, fighting a war which has no ideal and no moral justification. Whereas the Taliban are fighting for the freedom of their homeland, with faith in themselves and belief in the Divine Intervention, which has helped them defeat the mightiest of the mighty, during the last thirty years. In fact, the Asymmetric Warfare, waged by the Shadow Army of Taliban has determined the contours of the emerging global order, by putting limits to the expanding menace of global hegemony, primacy and pre-eminence. Maulana Jalaluddin Roomi’s prediction indeed has come true: “The Giants come forward from Afghanistan and influence the world.” Read more of this post

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