Americans are fighting the war of yesteryears

Khalid Iqbal

Much fanfare preceded the launch of a military operation in Helmand province. It is being proclaimed as the biggest offensive since the occupation of Afghanistan by the US-led coalition forces. Hence, the expectations regarding its outcome have skyrocketed, though unrealistically. Overall, the ongoing operation Mushtarak (combined) is a tactical level operation, and thus battle for Helmand is not synonym for the battle for Afghanistan. Even a brilliant success in this venture would not have any significant or lasting impact on the overall layout of the chess board of Afghanistan. The opportune time for a military solution is over, since long.

Operational ingredients and strategy constituents of Helmand manoeuvre are carrying forth most of the usual errors or say the operational psyche, which has been the hallmark of American failures in previous such endeavours over the last about nine years. At the end of the day, some peaks and valleys could have been ‘conquered’; praises would be showered on brave soldiers for not engaging the resistance elements and letting the extremist fighters flee the area, to create trouble elsewhere. The final solution to Afghan fiasco would however remain as elusive.

Unfortunately, the Americans are fighting for some tactical glories at the cost of losing at operational and strategic levels. They appear destined to lose the war, even if they succeed in Operation Mushtarak.

Imperial hubris did not let the Americans learn from the recent success stories of the Pakistani military operations in Malakand and South Waziristan areas. Despite public acclaim about these operations, pertinent operational and tactical level cues and lessons thrown up by these manoeuvres have been thrown out of the window.

It seems that General Kayani’s relevant urging at Brussels and subsequently during the operational level interactions with American field commanders, in a run up to Operation Mushtarak, appear to have fallen on deaf ears.

Pakistan’s advise to establish an adequate number of check posts on the Afghan borders in order to block the exodus of extremists into Pakistan have been totally ignored. On the contrary, disturbing news indicate that even a major chunk of previously manned check posts by ISAF/NATO were abandoned prior to commencing the operation. One wonders if this surge supported operation ever had one of its military objectives to eliminate or capture the extremists.

Hence the abandonment of check posts bordering Pakistan by ISAF/NATO has opened the flood gates for extremists’ influx into our country. This could set into motion another cycle of instability in the tribal belt of Pakistan arising out of knock-on effects. As a damage reduction measure, the Pakistan army has speedily set up some check posts on the Pakistani side to restrict the immigration. 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

India vs Pakistan and Threat of War

Before visiting Pakistan, Robert Gates warned from New Delhi that, should 2007 Mumbai like incident occur again, India would attack Pakistan, meaning thereby that the past Mumbai killings have been solely attributed to Pakistan and if such an incident occurred again, responsibility would be that of Pakistan, and in retaliation, India would be perfectly justified to attack Pakistan. In this situation USA would not be in a position to restrain India. Rather it may support this venture.

The message is fraught with ominous consequences and therefore demands a clear assessment of our ability to respond, if such a threat develops. This assessment therefore, is based on existing ground realities, which determine the military power balance between Pakistan and India. No doubt, the Indian armed forces are numerically superior to Pakistan, but they suffer from some inherent weaknesses and, it will take them a long time to overcome these.

Indian armed forces are in the midst of a transition, – replacement of the obsolete Russian weapons system with high-tech American-Israeli-European weapons. India started this changeover in 2005 after signing the Strategic Partnership Agreement with USA and hopes to complete it by the year 2015. Already it has spent about a hundred billion dollars on the new acquisitions. Their entire military system at present therefore, is weak, because they have the old and absolute weapons and about thirty percent of the recently acquired new systems. They suffer from a predicament, similar to what we suffered in early seventies, because, USA bad abandoned Pakistan in 1965 and we had not been able to induct new weapons and equipment from other sources. India exploited this weakness and dismembered Pakistan. Thus, India suffering from such weaknesses, now, is not in a position to wage a full f1edged war against Pakistan.

India faces another serious problem, in that, despite their best efforts of the last forty years, they have failed to manufacture their own tanks, guns, cruise missiles, fighter aircrafts, battleships and submarines. This in essence, constitutes a major weakness of the Indian armed forces, because, the present day war cannot be won with weapons borrowed or purchased from others. And, contrary to the weaknesses of India and cognising the implications of self-reliance, Pakistan has achieved up to ninety percent of indigenisation of weapons and equipment. We have our own tanks, guns, cruise missiles, fighter aircrafts, battleships and submarines as well as we have a stock-pile of war reserves, of over forty days, as compared to just eleven days of war reserves in 1965 and seven days in 1971. Whereas India’s war reserves as of today are limited to 15 days only. Thus, Pakistan in this respect also enjoys a clear edge over India.

Pakistan has achieved up to ninety percent of indigenisation of weapons and equipment.

The third dimensional capability of Pakistan is, in the way of higher military education and superior military and operational strategy, which is the hallmark of our military leadership, and was demonstrated some twenty years back in 1989, during Ex-Zarb-e-Momin. The Offensive Defence concept was practised and over the period, has been actualised as the fundamental doctrine of war. Offensive Defence means that our forces having fixed the enemy, will carry the war into their territory. Compare it with the Cold Start doctrine of India, of fighting a war on two fronts, which is more of a fiction than a realistic military doctrine.

Mr Robert Gates, as well as the Indian military planners, while taking into cognisance the existing military balance between Pakistan and India, must also consider the new phenomenon of the Asymmetric War, which, during the last thirty years, has established the supremacy of Men and Missiles, over the most modern and technologically superior armed forces of the world, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Kashmir. The Asymmetric War, in essence is the name of the Islamic Resistance, with its hardcore resting along the Durand Line. It is our strength. Thus, conventional as well as irregular armed forces, together provide the emerging shape of the Fourth Generation of modern warfare, as Joseph S Nye, the former Assistant Secretary of Defence USA and a professor of Harvard University, defines: “The hybrid wars, conventional and irregular forces combatants and civilians become thoroughly intertwined” to win wars and help establish the new order. In case, war is forced on Pakistan, it would be a long and decisive war, where new geo-political realities would emerge, establishing new frontiers of peace in the region.

Nuclear weapons are not the weapons of war because these have never been used as such. United States used it against the Japanese in 1945, which already had lost the war, nor had the capability to retaliate. American purpose was primarily diplomatic, i.e. to declare to the world that, America was entering the centre stage of world politics, to establish its global primacy and pre-eminence. There are other instances also, where nuclear powers, possessing hundreds and thousands of atomic weapons could not use them, to save themselves from very difficult and embarrassing situations. The Americans lost the war in Vietnam; the Soviets lost their empire in Afghanistan; the Israelis could not cover the shame of defeat at the hands of Hezbollah in 2005; the Americans having suffered defeat in Iraq, now are facing a worse defeat in Afghanistan, yet they find no recourse to use their nuclear capability. Their NATO partners are equally embarrassed, yet they cannot think of using their nuclear weapons to cover the shame of impending defeat. Similarly, India and Pakistan can fight only conventional wars and win or loose, but they dare not use nuclear weapons against each other, because it would destroy everything, leaving nothing but ashes, one could hope to capture and rebuild. And therefore, our people must not carry the wrong notion that Pakistan is powerful because it has nuclear capability. On the contrary, it is the conventional military capability, which provides security and lends resilience to the nation, as of now, and provides space to the po1itical government, to establish good governance.

Nuclear weapons are also great equalizer, between nuclear capable adversaries. “Between India and Pakistan, perfect deterrence exists” – declared George Fernandis, the former Defence Minister of India, after Pakistan demonstrated its capability in May 1998. And that precisely is the function of the weapons of mass destruction. Pakistan’s policy of Minimum Credible Nuclear Deterrence, supported by the Policy of Restraint, together serves the purpose of a stable nuclear deterrence. Nuclear capability also doesn’t compensate for the conventional military capability, and working on this principle the conventional military capability of Pakistan has been so developed as to make it a real symbol of national power, to defeat all aggression from within and outside.

Such are the ground realities, which determine the capabilities of our armed forces which cannot be wiped off by contrived constructs of our adversaries, nor Pakistan can be scared of going to the brink, if a war was forced on it. J F Dulles has rightly said: “If you are scared to go to the brink you are lost.” Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg (Retd)

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

When the Guns Fizzed and the Gizmos Fizzled

All the “Daisy Cutters”, Nuclear tipped bombs, and the finest drones on the planet could not stand up to the raw grit of those that opposed occupation. All the kings horses and the all the kings men could not put humpty back together or subdue the fierce fighters of Afghanistan and Pakistan. There are clear signs of operationalization of the peace plan in Kabul. The surge was imply to assuage the hawks in the Republican Party–the real Afghan reassessment was to get American boys out of the treacherous Hindu Kush. Defeat is a clichéd word–there are no winners in war. Victory is exaggerated concept. Absolute defeats have never been able to quell the resistance. Absolute victories have always lead to future wars–be it Sparta, Versailles or Kabul.

As Shakespeare would say “when the hurly burly’s done, and the battle is lost and won“–there is time to make a fresh start.

When a country is not able to impose its will and might–it is some sort of defeat. The Americans today need a face saving exit strategy from Afghanistan. The Taliban, Pakistan and all other countries of the world should assist the US in a phased, expeditious and honorable withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Over the past several years, we have predicted that the US will exit Afghanistan in 2011 right before the US elections. The tell tale signs of the operationalization of this policy is writ in large all over the billboards called newspapers.

There are numerous indications confirming our well calculated predictions: the polite decline to Delhi on their exuberance to begin training the Afghan forces; the offering of Shadow drones to Pakistan; the peace talks with the Afghan Taliban; the mood and the statements of the big boys in preperation of the Afghan Conference on January 28th, 2010; the acceptance of the Pakistani point of view on halting further operations in FATA; the usage of Pakistani mediators in back channel diplomacy to include the Taliban in the current Kabul government; and the offer of further US military and financial aid to Pakistan. The carrots offered to Pakistan are not for free–Milton Friedman was right “that ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”. Pakistan is being offered new toys and more Dollars for her assistance in helping the American extricate themselves out of the Afghan quagmire.

America had a decision to make. Stick with General McChrystal’s policy of more soldiers, more mercenaries and more war–supplemented with more drone bombing and more targeted murders (drones and otherwise). More war has always created more enemies. This has never been more true than in Afghanistan and Pakistan today.

Washington’s other choice was less war, less soldiers and less enemies. President Obama hedged his bets with the first option, and then is pursuing the 2nd option aggressively.

While some may claim that the Great Game is over–and Pakistan won. However, this is not the time for crowing from the rooftops. This is the time to let loose the doves from the allow them to to fly into the sun. There are many steps between the lips and cup. There are many impediments to peace in the Panshir and tranquility in Waziristan. We believe that the right steps are being taken.

A show of strength followed up with massive financial aid and assistance will yield the right results. Once the troops begin leaving, the civilian surge, accompanied with suitcases full of Dollars will persuade the warlords to switch sides (just like the Northern Alliance switched sides in 2001).

There are huge dangers to he peace deal. Bharat (aka India) keenly aware of its sagging influence in Central Asia (specially after the ignominious eviction from Tajikistan) may play the chagrined loser, and stage another Mumbai type of false flag, and try to wage war on Pakistan. This would derail the peace plan. Some of Bharati surrogates in Balochistan and the TTP may be allowed to torpedo peace in the Khyber Pass by assassinating another Pakistani leader, in trying to create ethnic strife in Pakistan. Other international powers may have vested interests in ensuring that the Taliban do not come into power or even share the government in Kabul. Both Israel and Iran are scared of The Talibs.

If President Obama is able to pull this off–it will be a miracle. He has to keep the Indians at bay by selling them toys (double advantage, dollars and Peace); he has to appease the Pakistanis so that they continue their assistance in achieving peace; he has to browbeat Iranian resistance through sanctions and threats; he has to assuage the Chinese that Afghan venture is over with no threat to Beijing; and he has to keep the Russians cool so that they do not think that Central Asia has been taken from them. If he can do this tap dance, the US corporations can make huge profits.

Delhi needs Viagra to prove its manhood. The US can offer the blue pills in many forms–obsolete nuclear plants declared unsafe for America, stripped down F-16s (with lots of spare parts and services), and tons of below quality equipment that the Indians would love to plunk down hard cash for. After all the business of America is doing business. If the US can figure out how to sell billions of Dollars of machines (which will rust in a few years) to Delhi that would be a great achievement. If the US can make a profit out of the Afghan war to recuperate some of its losses, it will be a happy camper. Read more of this post

US far from winning in Afghanistan: McChrystal

The commander of NATO and US forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, says the coalition forces are “not winning” the war in Afghanistan.

McChrystal made remarks at a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Turkey.

He told reporters in Istanbul on Thursday that he does not believe the allied efforts in Afghanistan has “turned a corner.”

“I’m not prepared to say that we’ve turned the corner.”

“I still will tell you that I believe the situation in Afghanistan is serious,” McChrystal said on the sidelines of the Istanbul summit.

While US President Barack Obama was considering a troop surge last October, McChrystal had warned that the situation in Afghanistan was deteriorating and the coalition risked failure if it did not send more troops.

General McChrystal, however, claimed that US-led forces had made “significant progress” last year and set the stage for even more progress this year.

He noted that success in the war-weary country is something that is difficult to measure.

“This is all a war of perceptions. This is not a physical war in terms of how many people you kill, how much ground you capture, how many bridges you blow up,” said McChrystal. Read more of this post

%d bloggers like this: