Afghanistan and the Future of Warfare: Implications for Army and Defense Policy
ARMY WAR COLL STRATEGIC STUDIES INST CARLISLE BARRACKS PA
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The defense debate tends to treat Afghanistan as either a revolution or a fluke either the Afghan Model of special operations forces SOF plus precision munitions plus an indigenous ally is a widely applicable template for American defense planning, or it is a nonreplicable product of local idiosyncrasies. In fact, it is neither. The Afghan campaign of last fall and winter was actually much closer to a typical 20th century mid-intensity conflict, albeit one with unusually heavy fire support for one side. And this view has very different implications than either proponents or skeptics of the Afghan Model now claim. Afghan Model skeptics often point to Afghanistans unusual culture of defection or the Talibans poor skill or motivation as grounds for doubting the wars relevance to the future. Afghanistans culture is certainly unusual, and there were many defections. The great bulk, however, occurred after the military tide had turned not before-hand. They were effects, not causes. The Afghan Taliban were surely unskilled and ill-motivated. The non-Afghan al Qaeda, however, have proven resolute and capable fighters. Their hosts collapse was not attributable to any al Qaeda shortage of commitment or training. Afghan Model proponents, by contrast, credit precision weapons with annihilating enemies at a distance before they could close with our commandos or indigenous allies. Hence the models broad utility with SOF-directed bombs doing the real killing, even ragtag local militias will suffice as allies. All they need do is screen U.S. commandos from the occasional hostile survivor and occupy the abandoned ground thereafter. Yet the actual fighting in Afghanistan involved substantial close combat. Al Qaeda counterattackers closed, unseen, to pointblank range of friendly forces in battles at Highway 4 and Sayed Slim Kalay.
- Unconventional Warfare