The history of the twentieth century is replete with wars in which guerrilla forces confront an army in the struggle as to who will control a country. There is nothing new in Afghanistan which resembles many prior such examples ranging from China to Malaysia, to Vietnam to the Philippines. In each guerrilla war, it is essential for a regular army to win the support of local populations or the conflict will eventually result in a victory for the guerrillas. Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, is furious at the continued air attacks which too frequently result in the death of some Taliban, but also wind up killing innocent civilians. A result which all too often results in new candidates for the Taliban army. “Every civilian casualty, however caused, is a defeat for the United States and and a setback for the Afghanistan government,” he told his generals.
A problem has been lack of sufficient forces on the ground which has led to calling in air strikes and resulting civilians casualties. General Stanley McChrystal, who has assumed leadership, will shortly have 68,000 American soldiers to go along with 32,000 from our allies. The question remains– is that enough soldiers to do the job?