As I'm reading about the Marine-led NATO offensive in Afghanistan, I'm wondering if this represents the "new" counterinsurgency warfare, or is this j
February 15, 2010

As I'm reading about the Marine-led NATO offensive in Afghanistan, I'm wondering if this represents the "new" counterinsurgency warfare, or is this just the basic combined arms "search and destroy" conventional approach that we saw in Iraq? From the NY Times:

The first large skirmish began at 9:30 a.m., as Second Platoon, the company headquarters and most of the Afghan platoon stopped at the edge of a small village and prepared to clear it. The Taliban opened up with automatic rifle fire from a few hundred yards away, shooting from concealed positions protected by open ground.

Marines and Afghan soldiers rushed to mud walls and returned fire. The Taliban’s fighters could be seen at times running between fighting positions and irrigation ditches. A few were struck by the Marines’ fire, and fell. Others kept up their fire. Bullets buzzed past the Marines.


Often, small groups of Taliban opened up from a different direction after the Marines had faced several minutes of fire. It was clear that the Taliban had ringed the company, and was probing and picking at the Marines as much of Company K moved toward a road and bridge that Captain Biggers intended to seize.

As the company spread out, the fighting moved with it. At times, two or three gun battles raged at once, including at the outposts where the Marines had left their equipment. The Taliban harassed and attacked these positions several times during the day.


More than a half-hour later, after the fighting had subsided again, the Himars rocket barrage struck a nearby house, but not the one from which highly accurate fire had been holding the Marines against the wall.

Several Marines cursed. The wrong building had been hit. The company commander saw the children stream outside, ordered a cease-fire, and sent a patrol to go help.

Certainly there's the time and place to use conventional warfighting tactics to take on a large concentration of insurgents. Pretty sure that's in the COIN manual. But I feel like we're still fighting at the tactical/operational level, looking for short-term gains with no feasible long-term strategy to win and get out. It is encouraging that there are more Afghans involved in this joint operation than ever before, and word is that "development aid" is set up to follow into the province. But the "proof is in the tasting of the pudding," so they say. We'll watch and see what happens next.

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