Monday, February 11, 2008

Got your reality right here, MacKay. The four French options.

The Harperites motion to extend the Afghanistan mission to 2011 may well be moot. Already Peter Van Loan has stated that the 2011 date is simply a point on the calendar and not a definitive withdrawal date for Canadian troops. There is every possibility that it could be extended beyond that. At least as far as the Conservatives are concerned.

They may soon have to tackle reality.

The Harperites are pinning their Afghanistan policy on the Manley Report and the recommendation that Canada's continued involvement in the Kanadahar region be contingent upon NATO providing 1000 additional troops to supplement the existing Canadian force of approximately 2500 troops.

No matter how you read that, Manley and the Conservatives are calling for a troop escalation. Given that we are being told by the Harper government how much progress is being made in Afghanistan, the demand for a 40 percent increase in the number of combat troops suggests something altogether different.

MacKay came out of Vilnius with cheery news that France was considering sending 700 troops to serve in the Canadian sector. Not that 1000 troops is likely to make much of a difference, but 700 is not 1000.

And then there is what is actually happening in France. It seems Nicolas Sarkozy has not only not made up his mind, but his military commanders are surveying four different possible deployments for those troops. From Le Figaro:
Quatre options sont actuellement en préparation sous la houlette des hauts responsables militaires et diplomatiques. La première resterait centrée sur la région de Kaboul où est actuellement basé le gros des troupes (quelque 2 000 hommes au total). À la grande satisfaction de ses alliés, Paris déploie désormais des équipes d'instructeurs (Operationnal Mentor and Liaison Team, OMLT), intégrées au sein d'unités afghanes. Quatre de ces «omelettes», comme on les surnomme, sont d'ores et déjà opérationnelles sur le terrain, y compris dans les zones de combat. Une cinquième sera déployée dans le courant de l'année. Mais Paris est appelé à faire davantage. Une deuxième option serait un déploiement dans la région «Sud», autour de Kandahar. Paris y maintient déjà six avions (3 Rafale et 3 Mirage 2000D) et 200 hommes.

Les Canadiens, qui ont déjà eu près de 80 tués, ont indiqué qu'ils retireraient de Kandahar leurs 2500 soldats si l'Otan ne déployait pas un millier d'hommes supplémentaires. La semaine dernière, la presse canadienne évoquait le chiffre de 700 Français transférés vers le Sud. Une troisième option consisterait à envoyer des renforts français à l'ouest, dans la province du Helmand et vers la frontière iranienne.

Des régions livrées aux chefs de guerre, aux bandes criminelles et aux cultivateurs de pavot. La Force internationale d'assistance à la sécurité (Isaf), avec ses 43 000 soldats de 40 pays, n'y est pas présente. Enfin, la dernière hypothèse viserait à dépêcher des troupes à l'Est, autre zone «chaude» de l'Afghanistan, proche des régions tribales du Waziristan où les djihadistes évoluent comme des poissons dans l'eau.

For those needing a translation, the gist of Le Figaro's report goes like this:

- There are four possible options for the deployment of the French battalion being studied by France's military headquarters and senior foreign affairs officials.

- The first option is to focus on the Kabul area and reinforce the 2000 strong French army force there. The French run four Operational Mentor and Liaison teams, (which they call an "omlette"), and feel they need to generate more.

- The second option is to deploy the 700 man force to the south to assist the Canadians in Kandahar. The report mentions that the Canadian press had made the first mention of 700 French troops going to Kandahar.

- The third option is to send French troops into the western area of Helmand province, in an area where ISAF has no presence, near the Iran border and with the mission to deal with war lords and criminal gangs in the border region.

- The fourth option would be to dispatch the French battalion to the east, another "hot" area of Afghanistan, on the border of Waziristan where jihadists "surface and move like fish in water".

Of those four missions being studied by the French, the Kandahar option doesn't look to have any greater imperative than any of the others.

Even if France does opt to send its troops to Kandahar to escalate the ground combat force in that area, the man who commands NATO forces in Afghanistan, General Dan McNeill, feels the number of troops being offered, indeed the entire force on the ground is woefully inadequate.
In Afghanistan, the population is “estimated to be perhaps as much as 3 million more than Iraq, yet we have, in trying to operate in a counterinsurgency environment, only a fraction of the force that the coalition has in Iraq,” General McNeill added. “So there’s no question it’s an under-resourced force.”

General McNeill said that if the official American military counterinsurgency doctrine were applied to Afghanistan, then well over 400,000 allied and Afghan security troops would be required. He acknowledged the impossibility of fielding a force of that size.

That's not just counter-insurgency doctrine, that's just plain common sense. If you want to win any military action you employ overwhelming force. Either that or be prepared to chip away at the beast for a lifetime with little real chance of success.

And the impossibility of fielding that size of force has a lot to do with the fact that most countries just aren't into this operation. That, by the way, includes Canada. We get a lot of rhetoric and jingoistic crap out of the Harper and Bush governments but if they really meant it they would both take the kind of action Eric Margolis is suggesting.

If impassioned claims by U.S. and Canadian politicians that the little Afghanistan war must by won at all costs, then why don't they stop orating, impose conscription, and send 400,000 soldiers, including their own sons, to fight in Afghanistan?

Of course they won't. They prefer to waste their own soldiers, and grind up Afghanistan, rather than admit this war against 40 million Pashtun tribesmen was a terrible mistake that will only get worse.

On the other hand, if the commitment to Afghanistan extends past 2011 as a combat mission that will make it half again as long as Canada's involvement in the 2nd World War.

How long does MacKay think he can keep feeding a volunteer force into a war without end?

No comments: