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Friday, 9 November, 2001, 12:22 GMT
War in Afghanistan: Is the strategy working?
The Pentagon has admitted it has been taken aback by the tenacity of the Taleban as the US-led bombing campaign continues into its third week.
Despite sustained bombing and ground attacks, the Taleban forces appear to be relatively intact and their morale remains high.
It is believed that the Taleban are now moving into residential areas in an attempt to avoid allied bombing.
As civilian casualties continue to rise, the United Nations and charity groups have voiced concern about the US use of cluster bombs which often miss their target and can remain unexploded on the ground, posing a long-term threat to civilians.
Is the allied strategy working? Should the US consider new tactics or do you think they should continue to bombard the Taleban? Has your opinion about the war changed?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your emails below.
I have been sceptical about the US "eye for an eye" reasoning and have a question for the world leaders who show such lack of respect for human life. Instead of launching a direct assault on a country causing injury and death to innocent people, would it not have been a wiser strategy to capture small territories and, instead of using funds to manufacture weapons, ensure that the basic needs of the populace were taken care of?
Snorri H. Gudmundsson, Reykjavik, Iceland
No matter what strategy the US adopts for its war in Afghanistan, it is bound to fail as it did for the British in the 19th century and the Russians in 1980.
It's time to find other ways of fighting terrorists. We should avoid further loss of innocent lives and Afghan deaths will not bring back America's dead. Let's not continue the vicious cycle of revenge. America - give a reprieve during Ramadan - show respect to the Afghan people, even if you detest the Taleban.
The methodology of this war is crazy; how can bombing the already war-torn cities of the Taleban have any effect on whether Osama Bin Laden appears out of hiding. He is quite obviously willing to hide behind the bodies of those dying for him. The only possible strategy that can be considered is a search and destroy one by special forces alone, such as the SAS and the Royal Marine Commandos. These highly trained troops can even operate in the harsh conditions of the Afghan Mountains during the winter. Bombing only affects those who cannot hide.
The strategy is probably not working as desired. I wonder what will be achieved once Taleban are gone. There won't be any terrorism in the world? In my opinion, the problem of terrorism can be solved by killing the hatred, not people (especially innocent civilians). This is done by improving overall understanding between the nations, religions, etc. The point is to recognize the same rights for others as you wish for yourself.
Krishna Sastry, Hyderabad, India
The coalition against terrorism is facing a new dilemma, now that they have realised that the public opinion is already faltering. What would happen to the public opinion should soldiers start coming back in coffins? Given the fact that the Soviet Union fought the Afghan muhajadin for a decade and eventually gave up, what are the chances of this conflict being resolved with guns when in the west, unlike in the Soviet Union, public opinion matters?
The United States and the United Kingdom must stop bombing Afghanistan. There is no way that one can justify the bombing of a country by pointing to the event in New York City. The Afghan people have nothing. More importantly, there is far more important thing that the media is looking over. What happens afterwards? After building a permanent military presence and raising a puppet dictatorship in Afghanistan as the US has done the world over, the US will have access to the largest oil reserves in the world. This is what this is about. It was the same during Desert Storm and it looks like a similar operation now. America is a business and everything it does in the world serves to support its prosperity. It was tragic that so many people died in New York, but Afghani lives are in no way any less valuable.
I read in a British broadsheet that Sir Michael Boyce, chief of
defense staff, said that the campaign would not be won "by a clever
bombing campaign or boots on the ground but when the Afghan people say it is not worth the hassle". Well, the hassle is certainly being piled on. It will be a fascinating experiment to see how much the Afghan people
Jorge, Madrid, Spain
I believe that Taleban support in Pakistan raises a very touchy matter. Pakistan's government should not allow Pakistani supporters of the Taleban to cross the border into Afghanistan. Pakistani Muslims should understand this is not a holy war.
It is evident to me that the United States have acted with retaliation and revenge on their minds, rather than properly calculating the situation and possible repercussions. They seemed to have overlooked the exact nature of fundamentalism. For every one you kill there will be a great deal more willing to replace them. This constant bombing is most definitely not the way forward and can only lead to more support for Bin Laden, as is already happening on a vast scale.
More than 6000 of a nation's very best killed, two edifices of its commercial establishment razed to ground along with its economy, the very nerve center of its military attacked, and to top it all, its populace terrorized by bio-chemical attacks and yet the leaders of USA are shy of acting decisively. True leaders need to display courage and not bravado. The US administrators need to know this.
I do not believe that the strategy is to kill innocent Afghans but this is the result of the current actions. Afghans are suffering enough and are NOT the identified perpetrators of the World Trade Center attack. The Al Quaeda movement is the object of US and British attention, they should also be the target for action. If anything, the current strategy seems to be hardening the resolve of the Taleban and its supporters and amassing opposition within the coalition countries.
Khalil ur Rehman, Quetta Pakistan
The US military has said that it is "surprised" by the toughness of the Taleban fighters. Now my question is did they think they were fighting against Scouts and Girl Guides? The Taleban fighters don't eat cornflakes for breakfast!
"This is a new kind of war". "Everything has changed now". "We will have to use different methods to bring these people to justice," and so on. I remember hearing a lot of phrases like these in the days immediately following Sept. 11. But has the US done anything different from past "conflicts"? NO. The current campaign obviously isn't working, and if the Taleban government is going to hide amongst innocent civilians, then air strikes will never work however long we engage in them.
A huge amount of intelligence and a great number of human sacrifices is what it will take to accomplish the goals that the US claims to have, both of which will take time and patience and more casualties on our part. I say we either take the upper hand and stop the circle of violence now (preferable), or really show our commitment to the cause of destroying the Taleban government and move in with ground forces that will not be able to make such mistakes so easily when it comes to murdering innocent civilians. The longer we persist in this bombing campaign, the more allies we will lose and the more supporters bin Laden will gain.
How many more women, men and children does the UK and US want to kill before they are satisfied. I am amazed at why intellectual countries just don't see what damage they are actually doing. If this is what a democratic government is all about, then what's the difference between the UK/US and terrorism.
Please stop killing People.
Why are people acting as if Bin Laden is some kind of god? Capture or kill him, and the war on terrorism will be won? I doubt it! There is an endless line of people willing to take his place, as long as actions like this war continue. It seems that we will never learn from our past mistakes, though I keep on hoping. What exactly the U.S. is hoping to achieve by this endeavour, I really don't understand. I would be much more supportive if they had just gone in there to oust the Taliban because of it's profound repression of the Afghani people, but then they should have done that years ago. This war is a huge mistake, and the repercussions will be felt decades from now.
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. An eye for an eye and everyone is blind. No it is not going to work until we address the root cause of terrorism. No one just becomes terrorist overnight. No matter how thin you slice it you always has two sides.
The strategy is not working because, whilst the Blair government famously promised to be "tough on crime and on the causes of crime", it is, in this case, proving to be "tough on terrorism..." and that's it.
It is clear that dropping bombs is not helping to achieve anything, and it is hurting innocent people. Therefore it should stop. It appears to me that the USA rushed into this without a clear plan. All I hear are vague, half-baked ideas of stopping terrorism, and putting broad-based government into Afghanistan, and all I see are bombs being dropped, and no progress being made to achieve any goal.
I don't think it can work. Surely the best way is to send in the Special services and find Bin Laden without all the bombs and the innocent deaths and casualties. More loss of life in Afghanistan is not the answer.
It is amazing to me that some people, especially people from the US, could be so naive to think we could negotiate with terrorists and their supporters. My opinion has not changed. Whether people think it is working or not, we will not change our resolve to eliminate the threat to the US. Anyone who lives here that doesn't agree should really just pack up and move somewhere else.
Whether or not there have been political mistakes made by our government in the past, is not relevant to this war. We will learn from the mistakes and do better in our world politics. Our fight against terrorism will prevent everyone posting here from living in the conditions the Afghan people have to endure now.
No, it's clearly not working. And what's worse is that we now hear that Bin Laden may never be captured. So what's next? Let's just try diplomacy.
In reply to Matty. "Let's try diplomacy?" You're kidding, right? Any individual who calls for the death of all Americans will not hesitate to chop off any American hand that is offered to them in peace.
1. That this war is not one which could ever have been won in 6 weeks.
I hope that a UN-based peace-keeping force can relieve the US of its activities as soon as possible. And I hope that the UN will also have the courage to trust the feelings of ordinary Afghan people, when it comes to determining how their country should be governed in the years ahead.
In reply to Field Marshal Rhys Jagger.
1) From the very outset, the war's long-term nature was stated, over and over.
2) In war, absolute priority is given to killing the enemy. In spite of this, food has been dropped as part of an effort to feed the Afghan people.
3) The airstrips have absolutely no use as a food delivery system. The Taleban will only stake them out and steal the food.
4) Ground troops as simultaneous canon fodder/pizza deliverymen lacks strategic common sense.
5) Continued bombing worked in Bosnia and Iraq.
6) That "we are all human and should not stand in judgement", is a very interesting judgement, judging from your severe anti-US judgements.
Finally, a UN-based peace-keeping force has all the bite of a toothless kitten. If the "ordinary" Afghan
People have to depend on this for salvation, God help them. The "extra-ordinary Afghans", of course, don't count! Only the "people's people" count, in the great warm heart of the non-judgmental field marshal.
Shoaib Nisar, UK
Some of the comments here are unbelievable. I fear for the future of the world if people like Shoaib Nisar and Mike from Seattle are reprentative of anyone. Perhaps they would like to consider that Bin Laden declared war on the USA on September 11th - so what are the Americans supposed to do? Invite him to carry on, so that in 3-4 years time, he will be ready to nuke places like Seattle? I wonder where your right to freedom of speech will be then? Study a bit of history and learn some lessons from the past - the origins of the Second World War especially.
Even the NA are claiming that the attacks are not working. Being an Afghan, I say we should use whatever tactics needed to bring the Taleban and Bin Laden down.
I think the strategy is working very well. The Americans are playing a well thought-out campaign against terrorism and the Taleban. A slow approach is better than rushing in because in that way they can weigh up the situation and tread more carefully. More mistakes would be made if they carried out an all-out attack and lives would be lost. Let Bin Laden sit it out, he isn't going anywhere. The Taleban forces are a rabble lot and will know shortly that they are no match for the USA and UK troops when a ground offensive is put into operation.
Mike, Seattle, WA, USA
Mike from Seattle, WA, USA: As a fellow Seattleite I can't believe what you're saying about your own government. I know we are far removed from what happened in NY and DC but how can you say the only reason we're in Afghanistan is because we don't agree with the Taleban's beliefs. How would you feel if they flew into the Columbia Tower, an 87 storey building in Seattle and killed one of your family members? We can't sit back and wait for them to kill more of our innocent people. It's too bad al Qaeda and the Taleban hide behind the innocent people of Afghanistan. The United States government is preserving the very blanket of freedom you live under for generations to come.
It depends on what the strategy is. If it's to eradicate terrorism then we need to recall all the English language dictionaries and issue a new definition of the word. If it's the destruction of a country that was already living in prehistoric times then it is working. If it's to get Bin Laden and remove the Taleban then clearly it's not working because they are still there. The US and her allies have to rethink this whole thing. At the moment it's clearly all about rhetoric and cruise missiles missing the target. Creative and new thinking is required which means that we will probably have to negotiate sooner or later, unless we really want a large-scale deployment of ground troops. Being a Muslim myself, I would just like to add that it's one thing to fight for your country and be paid to do that job, but it's another to fight for your religion and genuinely believe that the suffering of this life will be over and that awaits. Creative and unbiased thinking is immediately required.
Muhammed, USA: You state: "Creative and unbiased thinking is immediately required." Do the terrorists that would rather kill innocent people in the hopes of dying themselves offer anything "creative and unbiased" by their actions? Destructive and totally biased is what they've offered to us. Expecting these people to turn around is not realistic, in any sense. I'll gladly pay our soldiers to protect our lives in this country, regardless of their individual forms of worship - another thing they are fighting for, and not just doing what they are paid to do.
Yes, US policy is working. The USA has managed to unite the civilised world against the evil barbarians of the world. This is a good thing.
I think that the violence must stop. 6,000 people are already dead, how many more will die before we stop? I am not talking about our side or their side, I am referring to the human race. It is time to stand up as a global community and respect the right to life. The only way that we will capture Bin Laden is through diplomacy, considering that the US government speculates that there is a possibility that he will escape. Let's talk peace. Now. For everyone's sake.
Julia, London, UK
So why doesn't Julia from London, UK, enlist to the US Corps and fight with the Americans.
Jeanie, Hickory, NC, USA
I have been very disappointed by the opinions of many of my peers and countrymen. Our caring and concern has its merits but we have to see the bigger picture. If indeed this is a war, people should expect atrocious and horrendous acts of violence, barbarism and all the ugliness that has been associated with war through the ages. It is foolish that war even exists, yes. I'd love for us to be able to talk it all out and for everyone to just get along. That said, it seems those efforts have been for naught.
We must commit ourselves and fortify our resolve now. Good, innocent, loving people will die. They will die on both sides, and it will be a tragedy, but it must happen for us to succeed. I implore the powers that govern the outcome of this war to make it swift and fierce. The dead don't suffer, but long drawn out warfare causes lots of suffering amongst those that live through it. The US and her allies should strike hard and without compassion, and put this war to rest. Let it be over now, and let us make apologies later.
John, NY, USA
I thought this was a war against terrorism. Am I hallucinating or am I seeing innocent people being targeted and killed as if they themselves were terrorists? This war was supposed to be against the likes of Bin Laden, now it seems the Taleban are a bigger target whilst Bin Laden has been put on the back burner. The west keeps hammering on about democracy yet we see the rights of the Afghan people being completely ignored. I am British but I support the Taleban's stance: "If you want Bin Laden then show us the evidence." They have a democratic right to ask for evidence like every other nation on this planet.
I believe that it's working. We must get ground troops in there and start hunting for these rats. Once found, they need to be brought to justice in an International Court. Let's end this terror once and for all.
I'm surprised that it's even taken the Taleban this long to shield themselves and their equipment behind civilians.
I have to respond to Mickey, UK. What on earth are you talking about? Equating the events of September 11 to the military action in Afghanistan is complete nonsense. Loss of civilian life is regrettable but the US is absolutely not targeting civilians. Compare that to the main objective of the September 11 attacks - to kill as many innocent people as possible. You really need to think about this situation in a less reactionary way. Perhaps you feel comfortable sitting back after the attacks and just waiting for the next terrorist atrocity, but I do not. We are going after the Taleban and Bin Laden, not innocent people. There is a huge and very obvious difference here between the US military action and the tactics of the terrorists. Wake up.
I'm really tired of people comparing us to the terrorists. I'm referring to Mickey from the UK.
After 6,000 of our citizens and guests were slaughtered, we showed astronomical restraint and gave the Taleban conspirators ample time to give us Bin laden. Even now when the war is under way we show a great deal of restraint and benevolence.
We are dropping food for the Afghan people. The word is the Taleban wants to poison the food and blame the American people.
I was once an Infantryman in Uncle Sam's Army and I can assure you that we do not target civilians that are not a direct threat to our forces. We follow the Geneva convention rules to the letter. Often to our own detriment so quit your whining and climb off your high horse.
Robert Alpy in NY says: "We follow the Geneva Convention rules to the letter." If we ever did the world would have been a much safer place, but we have categorically failed to do so and that is why the world suffers so much today. In addition we have confounded the situation by lending our support to countless dictators since the convention was drawn up.
Never forget the 'tactics of terror' and why this conflict began. Everyday people should think about and remember not only the events of September 11th, but all of the terrorist actions that have taken place before it and those that will occur in the future. The history of terrorism shows increased ferocity and determination in attacks, if it is not addressed now, it never will be. The apparently 'short-sighted' governments may actually be looking further than most imagine.
I cannot believe that the US are now saying that Bin Laden may never be caught. Wasn't the objective of this war to find and/or kill Bin Laden, destroy all training camps and the people who harbour him? The training camps, we are told, have now gone, the Taleban seem quite resistant to the allied forces, and the US are saying Bin Laden may well get away. Yesterday I felt quite safe, now I am not so sure. Bin Laden, if not caught and killed, will start up training camps in another country to train even more soldiers, and I use the term 'soldiers' loosely. This war is not working, we need an all out offensive, that means tens of thousands of ground troops and supporting artillery, to seek and hunt down Bin Laden. They are not doing enough.
Tom Thornton, Chicago, USA
In New York thousands of innocent people died. Now in Afghanistan hundreds have died and millions face starvation. What is different? Where is your civilised world, Mr. Bush? All you have done is ignited further hate in the Muslim world.
The Taleban fighters have been fighting wars since birth. They know the terrain - their ancestors fought to defend it and they've been fighting since. Of course they will be difficult.
It's just that Uncle Sam thinks they can win any war. Sadly, they are deluded. There is no chance that a fighter, even a better armed one, will win in a terrain known intimately by the enemy. Their troops are less well trained and much less experienced. Many US and British soldiers will die before Capitol Hill realise the tactics aren't working.
These people survived 10 years of war against Russia, I'm not surprised that they haven't given up after 3 weeks, but what has surprised me, is that the US obviously thought that they would collapse so quickly!
Mark , Belgium
I think the tactic is working. So much so that the Taleban have to resort to using civilians as human shields.
Why is it only non-elected governments that use their citizens as human shields? Saddam, Milosevic and now the Taleban. It is them who do not care about the lives of the population, not us. Once it has been proved that the Taleban are using the people for this purpose (as it has been by a BBC report I saw this morning showing machine gun posts at a market) the Taleban should be shown for the evil, dictatorship they are. We should not be made to feel guilty by their deliberate attempts to cause their own people harm.
From the outset the US said that this would be a long campaign, so I don't understand why everyone was expecting it to be over or even nearly over by now. Ground troops are presumably the next stage. There's little point in supporting the Northern Alliance, however. These Fundamentalists are just as bad as the Taleban by all accounts, and their ranks now include a great many Taleban defectors. Our enemies should not become our friends just because they change clothes.
Mohammed, London, UK
The US have just admitted that bin Laden may escape, but that the Taleban will fall. It would seem that the aim of the war has changed. There seem to be two problems with this new aim. One, the Northern Alliance have a notorious history as double crossers, rapists and heroin dealers. Two, why did we not move in back in 96, if we feel so morally outraged by the Taleban's behaviour? It seems almost impossible to believe now, but back in 95/96 there were serious thoughts of running a pipeline through Afghanistan for the newly opened Caspian fields. The US was widely believed among energy analyst circles to be supporting the Taleban's move to power, as the alternative routes involve Russia or Iran. So while revenge for Sept 11 and the capture of bin Laden remain the putative reasons for all of this, the cynical among us suspect other motives may be at play.
I'm not convinced that it's right to be bombing Afghanistan. This 'war' should be being waged in a very different way.
Yes my mind is changing. I've
begun to see attempts, by MP's
especially, to undermine the
Alliance action, as treachery
- especially at a time when so
many parents have sons and
daughters fighting for us. As
for supporters of Bin Laden, I
have no tolerance for them
whatsoever. In the past I've
marched against the Falklands
War, attended CND rallies etc,
so why are things different with
me now? Maybe I've realised
who's side I'm on - and who's
on my side.
I totally agree with RW. We are not doing enough! Our strategy seems to be to scare them into submission. This is simply not working. We need massive and intense strikes against their front lines. On TV you see a couple of jets that drop a bomb here and a bomb there. Who cares! This is not at all effective. The attacks should involve dozens of planes at a time, concentrating on one area only. After intense air strikes we must then send in ground troops to take out any troops left standing. Only then will they see our fury, our rage with what they have done!
The US attacks Afghanistan in order to 'smoke out' Bin Laden and bring him to 'justice'. With the admission they don't think they can achieve the aim of capturing Bin Laden, the question is what are they doing now? Is killing Afghan women and children anything other than terrorism with no real goal? Surely the fact the Red Army that was the Soviet Union couldn't 'smoke out' the Taleban in 10 years should have been an inkling to the Bush and Blair Brigade that it was never going to be over in 2 weeks.
They also have the blood of innocent people on them now. Shame on them.
No, bombing Afghanistan will not catch Bin Laden. All it has achieved so far is to further radicalise the Muslims of the Middle East against the West. If the West replace the Taleban with the northern alliance (who are no better when it comes to human rights) they will be repeating the same mistakes they made in the 80`s by supporting Bin Laden against the USSR. Justice is not being served by killing innocent civilians, no matter which side you are on. Are the lives of 6000+ Americans worth the lives of 2,000,000+ Afghans who will die of starvation if the bombing continues? I think the people of Afghanistan have suffered enough.
Using civilians as cover. In other words, taking their own people hostage. Saddam did the same thing in Desert Storm. Further proof that no one is safe until we get rid of these people.
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