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Monday, 7 October, 2002, 02:58 GMT 03:58 UK
Analysis: Military lessons of Afghan war
A US soldier searches a building
US troops will have to stay for the foreseeable future
The BBC's Nick Childs

One year ago, the United States launched Operation Enduring Freedom - the campaign in Afghanistan to attack al-Qaeda and unseat the Taleban from power.

Now, US military chiefs at the Pentagon are busy digesting its lessons and how they might be applied to future conflicts, not least, perhaps, one in Iraq.

The military offensive against the Taleban succeeded more rapidly than most expected but its legacy remains uncertain.

Soldiers ask Afghans if they have seen Osama Bin Laden
Soldiers continue their searches for Bin Laden and Taleban remnants
Pentagon officials insist that the security situation in Afghanistan is better than it has been for a quarter of a century but they also agree that it remains fragile and dangerous.

The 9,000 or so US military personnel in the country are likely to have to stay for the foreseeable future.

The campaign has seen air power combined with special forces on the ground working in conjunction with local forces.

It has employed new surveillance and targeting techniques.

Precision satellite-guided weapons have been used to an unprecedented degree.

Unmanned aerial drones came into their own, monitoring the battlefield and sending back instantaneous information to commanders.

Satellite technology and horses

The campaign has also been a combination of high-tech and low-tech.

American special forces have ridden to battle on horseback, then used global positioning satellites to call in air strikes.

A German soldier searches a worker at a checkpoint
Commanders say the security situation is much better - but not perfect
But critics say the commander, General Tommy Franks, was slow to get large numbers of US troops on the ground and that he relied too much on local forces, not least in the critical battles in Tora Bora in December.

And the fight, they point out, is far from won.

The Americans' ability to move quickly and to use air power and special forces in combination will be features of future conflicts.

But analysts still warn against applying what has become known as the Afghan model to Iraq.

The opposition forces are not as well organised, they say, and the Iraqi military is a much tougher proposition than the Taleban's forces were.


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29 Sep 02 | South Asia
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