Friday, October 01, 2004

Kerry and Afghanistan vs. Iraq

I said something briefly about the oddness of Kerry saying that Afghan troops in Afghanistan is wrong, but Iraqi troops in Iraq is right (but they're not our allies or anything...) Well, today, others are agreeing:

Jonathan Last: (who has his own scorecard on the debate)
Round 12: Is it now more or less likely that you'll go into a preemptive war again?
Bush says, "by speaking clearly and doing what we say and not sending mixed messages" it is less likely we'll have to use troops again. Kerry rebuts that "the enemy" was Osama, not Saddam, and that Bush should have used U.S. troops, not Afghan troops, at Tora Bora. See? Bush should be using multinational troops where he's using American troops and American troops where he was using foreign allies. That makes sense.

Lt. Smash (Military Blogger)
So here’s my question for Senator Kerry, the armchair general (who served in Vietnam, don’t you know):

What would you have done differently in Afghanistan?

Presumably, he would have used American military forces, instead of “outsourcing” the effort to local warlords. But what forces where available in theater at the time? The first large contingent of conventional forces in Afghanistan, a brigade of 1,000 US Marines, arrived at an airstrip near Kandahar on November 25, 2001. That city, which had been the last stronghold of Taliban leader Omar, didn’t fall to anti-Taliban forces until December 7.

The only other US forces in Afghanistan at the time were Special Forces, and CIA paramilitaries. Their job was to help organize the various militias into a coherent force capable of defeating the Taliban, and to call in Coalition air strikes as required. It was this combination of Special Forces and local militia that had already driven the Taliban from the strategic city of Mazar-e-Sharif, the airbase at Bagram, and the capital Kabul.

The only US military on the ground at Tora Bora was a contingent of about two dozen Special Forces who were airlifted in to the area on December 2. Their mission was to coordinate the ground attack and to “laze” targets for US bombers. There is no way that these men could have taken Tora Bora without assistance – And the Marines in Kandahar already had their hands full. In any event, Tora Bora was completely overrun by December 12 – but not before the al Qaeda leadership escaped to Pakistan.

Let’s make one thing clear: outside of this “outsourcing” plan, there would have been no significant military action in Afghanistan prior to November 25 – but by the time those first Marines arrived, the Taliban had already been largely defeated. “Outsourcing” the war in Afghanistan was not Bush’s idea. It was the Pentagon and the CIA that came up with this plan. But President Bush did approve it, and it worked.

The only military alternative to this plan would have been a massive invasion of Afghanistan with several heavy divisions. Of course, these divisions would have had to get to Afghanistan by coming ashore in Pakistan and driving through the ungoverned (and largely hostile) Tribal Areas, where the Pakistani army wouldn’t even go. In any event, it would have taken several more months for these forces to arrive in theater – plenty of time for the terrorists to dig in and prepare for the fight.
Presented with the same options, would Kerry have made the right decision? Judging from his remarks last night, I’d have to say “no.”

Of note here is that all of this happened before the War in Iraq even started to ramp up. Afghanistan happend the way it did for reasons completely independent from Iraq.