Most of the newspapers are calling the attack on Marja, in Afghanistan, a “new model” of military operation. I suppose that means that instead of sweeping in with overwhelming firepower and catching the enemy unprepared, we told them we were coming.
That’s right. We told them we were coming.
Not only did we tell them we were coming, we gave them several warnings, including special instructions to the civilian population.
We did this so “innocent” civilians would not be injured or killed. I’m not sure there are too many “innocent” civilians in Marja, a key city in the opium trade and a center of Taliban power.
Our commanders also hoped some of the Taliban would surrender or otherwise play nice if we warned them of the attack. In any case, acting on the whims and wishes of the Afghan government, we’re working a “new model” of combat operation.
The soldiers and Marines fighting this battle call it “mowing the grass.” That means we’re going to warn the enemy that we’re coming, the enemy is then going to spend whatever available time he has sowing mines and rigging booby traps and then he’s going to leave.
Why hang around and face overwhelming firepower?
Maybe some will stay if the ambush possibilities are good. We then move in and try not to get blown up by booby traps and mines. We’re not always successful.
Twenty minutes after we leave, the enemy is back. They then murder or corrupt the Afghan police that remain behind when we leave, and its business as usual after that.
We are left with the whole job to do over again. It’s just like mowing the grass. It looks great when you finish, but over time the grass and weeds grow back and you have to go back and mow the grass again.
I’m familiar with this business. My outfit took the A Shau Valley in Vietnam from the North Vietnamese several times, always giving it back. In each case a couple of days after we were gone it was business as usual for the North Vietnamese.
If experience is any sort of teacher, the “new model” probably isn’t going to work very well.
For the “new model” to work, the Afghan police and military left behind must be able to defend themselves, which means killing enough enemy to drive them out.
So in essence the first battle merely sets the stage for the second battle, and it’s a dirty, nasty, ugly little battle that involves families, kidnapping, sniping, bombing, assassination and all the horror of a world gone mad.
Welcome to Afghanistan.
There’s one other problem with the “new model.” The more you concentrate on minimizing civilian casualties, the more exposed are our troops. I’ve seen it many, many times.
As “civilian” causalities go down, more troopers are injured and killed. I hope it’s worth it. I hope somebody smart has figured out a way to beat the “mow the grass” cycle.
But I doubt it.