No, We're Not Really Winning

Afghan trainees

Paula Broadwell uses Tom Rick's "Best Defense" blog to note the enthusiasm of US Army units in Afghanistan as they continue combat operations against Taliban forces in and around Kandahar. Does this mean that the COINdanestas (those supporting the counterinsurgency operations strategy) are going to be proven right? No one really knows.

So what is true, and what exactly is going on in Kandahar, the "heart of darkness," as it's now been coined? What appears to be true is that our conventional forces can still conduct major combat operations, and they're making some progress. The 2nd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), also known as STRIKE Brigade Combat Team (BCT) is certainly feeling momentum and confident about their advances in the area. "We've removed the Taliban's ability to limit our movement in the area," said 1st Lt. Reily McEvoy, a platoon leader in the brigade. "This is what we trained for… a classic dismounted fight."

While the brigade is focused and accomplished in full-spectrum operations, they are also proving that our conventional forces can still tackle difficult combat operations and integrate all enablers in very kinetic ops against a tough enemy. "This is a complex fight and requires detailed synchronization of lethal operations and a partnership with our partner Afghan forces," said one ISAF official. "But STRIKE is doing it all." The feared loss of "conventional war-fighting capacity" has been debated in the military with the arrival of the "COIN era," but the STRIKE BCT's successful operations should assuage at least some of that concern.
STRIKE BCT is proving its mettle by successfully conducting combat operations in very kinetic operations against a tough enemy. Let's hope the other surge forces can do the same. And for the COIN skeptics out there, don't worry too much that our conventional forces can't fight and protect the population at the same time. STRIKE BCT has shown otherwise.

Wow. It's amazing how our forces get to re-learn the lesson every year. I have no doubt as to the awesome power of an Army brigade combat team and its ability to devastate the Taliban every time the Taliban actually pulls more than a dozen of its rag-tag militia together. Truly, the Army has a mighty operational force. In the comments section, COL Gian Gentile remarks about how often we've seen this story.

However, as long as 1) Karzai's government lacks any credibility or capability to work with the regional tribes; 2) the Afghani security forces remain unqualified and untrustworthy, and 3) the Taliban continue to use Pakistan to rest and retrain and keep coming back into Afghanistan, then you really haven't demonstrated the success of counterinsurgency operations. Far from it.


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