"Pop-Centric" Warfare Still Kills People

ISAF with kids

I'm trying to absorb the news in the NYT today that "NATO" helicopters (probably Army Apaches) shot up a group of children who were picking up firewood near a forward operating base that was under fire by insurgents using a mortar. This FOB was in an eastern province on the border of Afghanistan, a dangerous area in which to operate. ISAF promptly owned up and apologized for killing "nine civilians." Civilians? That's a pretty bland term for a group of kids aged 9-15.

We've had too much bullshit talk about "population-centric" operations that are supposed to ensure we befriend the Afghan population and target the violent extremists. I get the theory, I get that the Taliban insurgents are causing a good deal of civilian casualties as well. I know who the bad guys are. I just have to wonder when the US Army - and the White House - is going to understand that they are really not suceeding in this strategy.

Our role in Afghanistan - assuming one believes we need to be there, as the president does - ought to be one of advising, training, and equipping the Afghan security forces. The Afghan government ought to be leading the operations to secure its own country with its own forces. Now we know this government can't do that, it's too corrupt, its security forces aren't motivated or inclined to do their jobs, so the impatient American response is "well, then we'll do it for you." Guess what? Doing combat operations for the host nation is not the point of counterinsurgency operations.

I'm tired of hearing the bullshit excuse that "we have to be in Afghanistan because Pakistan has nukes and Teh Terrorists might get them." Guess what? Both the Taliban and AQ are in Pakistan already. Fighting them in Afghanistan does NOTHING to secure that objective. Giving Pakistan billions of dollars in military aid every year should ensure that country's ability to secure those weapons, don't you think?

So instead, Karzai is going to get some free publicity by bashing his main ally, the United States. The Taliban are going to have a field day, trumpeting how US forces are killing Afghan civilians. And our Congress and White House are going to stoutly resolve that we've got to stay there for four more years before thinking about pulling combat forces out of Afghanistan. When will the Obama adminstration stop acting like a bunch of blood-thirsty neocons and admit that its Afghan strategy is a failure?

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