Monday, April 20, 2009

The War

Lately the NYTimes has had some excellent accounts of the battles going on in Afghanistan. An example is this audio and slide show. One of things that is remarkable about this is that the embed reporter got not only still photos during the battle, but audio as well. Needless the say, the distinctive sound of real m-16s (note the three round burst) and M-249's (longer, sustained volleys) is very different from the movies. Also interesting is to hear the platoon commander giving orders in the midst of the ambush--mostly he seems to be saying pretty useful things: stay here, go there, etc. The accompanying article details how the ambush played out showing how both the Taliban and U.S. forces are both experienced fighters who press their advantages.

Needless to say, the American response to what could have been a devastating ambush was swift, complex, and deadly. One American soldier was killed (in the initial IED explosion), but the pinned-down platoon managed to fight its way out of the riverbed where it had been trapped.

This is the same embed reporter and platoon that ambushed a Taliban column that was, itself, on the way to set up an ambush of American forces a few weeks ago. In that battle at least 13 insurgents were killed using claymore mines, grenades, machine gun fire, and a knife. Yes, one of the U.S. soldiers killed an insurgent with his knife. Obviously, the coalition forces are highly motivated to win this fight.

On the Canadian side of things, a recent Discovery Chanel documentary/series followed a Company training for its first deployment. I noticed how the military culture and training techniques differ between the U.S. and Canada. One Canadian Officer proudly explained to me, at a cocktail party, that the Canadian forces still operate with the mentality of a citizen militia. There isn't the same sense of a military culture. Consider that the U.S. has 1.5 million men and women in active duty vs. 65 thousand Canadians. Defence budgets compare as about $700 billion to $20 billion. That puts the U.S. second only to China in terms of the number of active duty military! Canada ranks 46 out of 107 on that same list, between Venezuela and Romania. I'm not criticizing, just explaining how the military is a different thing in the U.S. vs. Canada.

But victory in Afghanistan is going to be much more complex than the Canadian, U.S. and coalition forces winning military victories. This is mostly, IMHO, going to be about whether the U.S. can establish an effective government that can provide for its citizens and protect them. The results of that mission are still pending.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i watched that montage about an hour ago.... three things that hit me:

how young some of those guys were, how beautiful afghan valleys can be, and how scared the lady at then end looked.

afghanistan is a black hole