It's like that Fed-Ex commercial where the two guys are stymied on how to get a parcel to Germany. We're taking another shot at Panjwai, this time to win their minds. How are we going to go about that? Let's use massive aerial bombardment.
A few months back, Canadian General David Fraser led a force on what was called "Operation Medusa" to cleanse Panjwai of the Taliban and bring it back under the control of the central government. When the dust cleared we got the usual "Mission Accomplished" verdict. The bad guys were gone - driven out. We'd killed hundreds upon hundreds of them, the bodies were - I guess somewhere? We were on a roll and the bad guys were on the run and running out of time.
Reality check. We're back in Panjwai again, this time with a load of Brits,Americans and others to boot. What happened to Medusa? As the Toronto Star's Oakland Ross writes:
"Initially considered a major blow against the Taliban, last September's Operation Medusa proved to be a short-lived victory, as the radical Islamic rebels soon filtered back into this mountain-walled, grape-growing region, the main hotbed of their political support, a short distance west of Kandahar city."
"Code-named Operation Baaz Tsuka – or Falcon Summit in the Pashto language spoken here – the current offensive was launched Friday and is aimed at forging a rift between leading Taliban insurgents and their local supporters, who may well be tiring of the conflict."
"NATO planners hope the strategy will help to pacify this beautiful but troubled region, bristling with warriors and flanked by craggy mountain ranges that patrol the horizons to the north and south, like twin trains of granite elephants."
"Rather than descend upon local villages in full fighting mode with cannon ablaze, coalition forces aim to coax their adversaries into submission rather than kill them.
"They are hoping to entice wavering Taliban adherents to put down their weapons and instead accept peace offerings in the form of cargo containers stuffed with Yuletide treasures – farming implements, cooking oil, seeds for planting and other necessities of life, all scarce commodities in this war-ravaged territory.
"Wherever the offer is spurned, however, coalition forces are prepared to respond in more bellicose fashion, training their weaponry upon Taliban fighters while trying to avoid civilian casualties."
And, as we all know, nobody is more moved by Yuletide treasure than a Muslim peasant, right? And, of course, the fighters who put down (bury) their weapons and help themselves to an armful of farming implements, won't ever go back to those weapons and their old ways once the foreigners have left, right?
Of course we could just stay in Panjwai. We probably have enough soldiers to secure the entire district and keep the Taliban from returning. We can reclaim Panjwai for the Kabul government. Of course that would mean letting the rest of Kandahar province fall under the influence of the Taliban. No, scratch that idea.
I read your criticism of two Afghan missions but I don't see you coming to any conclusion. I didn't get the part where you reveal the correct plan. What is it?
My conclusion? Let's decide if we're going to be serious about this, if the political will genuinely exists. If the Canadian people want to support this mission we need a much greater force in Kandahar, enough to genuinely secure the province and safeguard reconstruction measures. That means a lot more troops and much, much more money. Hanging around, killing and dying for 10 or 20-years and then leaving with the issue unresolved is just a waste of valuable soldiers' and Afghans' lives.
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