February 12, 2009

More Thoughts on Kabul

Kip (remember Kip?) wrote in to offer comment on yesterday's post:

I understand the emotional underpinning of your reaction to today's attack in Kabul and the need for urgency in doing something, anything and quickly. On the other hand I disagree with your assessment that an attack of this magnitude (essentially a few suicide bombers and a squad of insurgents) demonstrates on its own the strength of the insurgency. Terrorism, which is what this is, is not necessarily an indicator of strength of the Taliban in Kabul but more likely an indication of continued weakness within the capital. They cannot (yet) turn Kabul into Baghdad circa 2006 and so they resort to attacks like this and the ones at the hotels. Sneaking a squad into the city and the components for IEDs requires no extraordinary, new organizational capacity, particularly for an insurgency with the Taliban's grip in the countryside. I would hate to see the wrong reaction to this, which would be to bed down and protect the cities with more Coalition Forces. The lesson of our campaigns in the East and South is that only platoon and smaller elements are likely to find, fix, and destroy the enemy while simultaneously protecting the populace and allowing the government to operate (and strike elements operating isolated from the population are more likely than anyone else to utilize close air support in ways that result in tactical victory and strategic defeat). Wanat and other battles demonstrate the need to couple these tactics with heavily increased Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaiscance support, air medical evacuation support, Air Lift capability, Indirect Fire and Close Air Support. We need MORE squad-sized (not company-sized) joint ANA/US patrol bases in the countryside, not more units dedicated to Kabul and other urban areas where the people hate the Taliban and even the police are relatively effective. Even in Kandahar, the ANA proved its effectiveness near the city when Arghandab briefly fell to the insurgents after the spectacular attack on Kandahar prison. The sky may be falling, but it is falling first in the provinces. The mayor of Kabul with his legions of police, Kabul-based brigades, and tanks will keep his city for some time ... just ask Dr. Najib.