The War in Afghanistan: The Winning Strategy with attention to Sun Tzu, David Galula and Mao Zedong
The war in Afghanistan which is technically the war against terrorism has taken longer than the world expected. With the bombing of the world trade center and the discovery that Osama bin Laden was being protected by the Mullah of Afghanistan, it was expected that the United States of America which was technically the country that was leading the war against terror, would get into Afghanistan, capture bin Laden and move out after kicking the Taliban out of power and the lives of the common Afghanistanians go uninterrupted. But we have seen a different scenario wherein either the Taliban have adopted better fighting skills or the United States of America as well as the NATO forces have failed to come up with a winning strategy (Rashid, 2009). Whichever way, the case needs to be dealt with decisively so that more lives are not lost whether they are the lives of the soldiers involved in combat or the lives of the common Afghanistan people (Ricks, 2009). It is for this reason that a better strategy needs to be employed. This is what this essay is all about. I will attempt to prove the weight of the thesis that: If the war in Afghanistan has to be won within the shortest time possible with little damage to the Americans, the coalition forces and the Afghanistan people and maximum impairment of the Taliban, cutting edge technology, espionage and sufficient forces together with superior combat skills appropriate for an amorphous enemy must be employed.
Great war theorists as well as practical men who took part in live combat have put across a number of strategies that can be proposed for adoption and application in the Afghanistan war so as to end this protracted conflict that has claimed so many lives and consumed so many resources without a clear sign of victory in the near future. As a way of winning, it is a fact that skill stands out as the most important segment of the above thesis. Bit at the end of the day, every element that has been mentioned in the thesis has to be present so as to ensure that the factors are present in totality so as to allow for maximum interaction and the consequent realization of victory.
With regard to the style of military management that needs to applied for the realization of the end which is basically victory, the key elements needed are measurement, estimation of quantity, calculation, balancing of chances and lastly victory (Sun Tzu, p.34) From this great view of Sun Tzu, the war wagers are being told the significance of carrying out the required measurements that lead to the estimation of the strength of the opposing forces. Then the calculations that are associated with these elements are carefully carried out .This is followed by a careful inquiry based on the results gotten from the calculation to see whether it is possible to emerge victorious from the battle field. This is what Sun Tzu means when he tells us about the balancing of chances. It is through the balancing of chances that most wise military commanders either retreat completely and stop to wage war or adopt another strategy or add more resources so as to get favorable calculated outcomes and then go back to the battle field, assuming that the enemy will not have gotten scared and will still be there and ready to face combat. Favorable results at the balancing of chances mea n s that victory is possible. With a positive outcome in the balancing of chances, the wise commander normally springs once to the battle field and decimates or clears up the enemy force. This is done as soon as possible since due to numerous dynamics, the situation can change and the enemy becomes stronger leading to a surprise and humiliating defeat that can totally immobilize the army and dull the spirits of the forces.
How does this great Sun Tzu strategy apply to the case of Afghanistan? This is one of the most ideal cases in relation to the Sun Tzu war strategy. The American and NATO Forces in Afghanistan led by their commander need to take an objective assessment of the powers of the Taliban. The side factors that always come up and change the deal including possible aid from some Middle Eastern and other countries, a case in which Iran has been named as a possible sponsor must be included. Also to be factored in is aid from other terrorist groups around the world. Another issue to look at while doing all these is to look at future dynamics as far as the Taliban are concerned and it has to be a realistic future of one to two months, the possible period within which if an assault is to be launched, it will have been completed. After this has been done, the necessary calculations must be carried out also with utmost objectivity so as to avoid a case in which the coalition forces underestimate the Taliban potential only to meet a deadly force on the battle front or apply more force than required, which can be compared to using a hammer to kill a fly. This can do more harm than good.
Leaving the above aside, the significant area is the responsibility of the American and the NATO commanders to balance their chances against those of the Taliban. For the case of the coalition forces, it is not about withdrawal if the chances are slim after the balancing of chances. It is about going back to the drawing board and adjusting the force characteristics so as to measure up to the field or battle field requirements (Crew &Tarzi, 2009). One big reason as to why the Taliban can be and is a nuisance is that it is amorphous and the coalition forces sometimes find it hard to differentiate between a civilian and Taliban. This makes combat difficult for the coalition forces. With the completion of the balancing of chances, which can be called comparison of power, the commanders can then move to the next stage.
The next stage is called victory. In this stage, the chances are played out in reality and there is combat with the enemy. With favorable chances of victory gotten in the process of balancing, the coalition forces should be able to outmaneuver the Taliban, kill most of them, capture the rest for imprisonment and restore order to all of afghabnistan.As noted earlier, the discovery of slim chances of victory will mean that the forces go to the drawing board without going to the battle field. Just like in the past, it is not good to be defeated even after you have to know that your chances of losing are high. This is something the American forces as well as the NATO forces cannot stomach. The inspiration the victory of Taliban to the rest of the terror groups worldwide will be immense ad the humiliation of the United States will lead to embarrassment and lose of morale by the soldiers.
In line with the elements in the thesis in the introduction is the element of espionage. The successful army must be able to make use of careful people who can assist in picking vital information regarding the operations of the enemy. This is the only way to make your planning relevant as far as what you are going to meet on the ground is concerned (Mao Zedong).The current war scenario does not employ human beings only in the process of espionage. The world has very sophisticated gadgets that are very effective in secret surveillance. But this does not make human beings useless. In fact they become more useful for the case of Afghanistan given the difference in language and even the race of the people on whose ground the war if fought (Galula, 2005).
It is easy to recognize an American working in Afghanistan given the difference in appearance and this makes it hard for both American and NATO soldiers as well as other personnel from these countries to perform the work of espionage as required by military undertakings. What therefore needs to be done is to identify cooperative Arab citizens, especially of Afghanistan or Pakistan and win their loyalty. Then they are trained on how to collect information and sent back to the ground in their home country to do the job of gathering military intelligence. This is a winning strategy that if employed, will provide links to areas of preparation, weapons storage and sources of support for the Taliban. Then the coalition forces can come in and handle the Taliban threat once and for all. This is not something to be left out as a side consideration given that if there is no genuine information on the activities of the Taliban, and given their lack of a common place of operation, more innocent civilian lives will be lost due to striking of wrong targets.
Technology has been mentioned as a great part of the winning strategy and it is also a crucial part of the thesis. We live in a modernized world whereby the weaponry that is utilized is advanced and the rate at which information can be relayed within the men and women in combat and beyond is amazingly high. Upon the acquisition of adequate reliable data on the terrain and weaponry of the enemy forces (Taliban), it will be necessary for the coalition forces to identify the best military technology to employ so as to get hold of victory as quickly as possible. Given that not all the citizens of Afghanistan are in favor with the Talibans, it is hard for them to store their weapons in the open. It is also hard for them to own huge stocks of weapons since they are not part of any government. All they get are hand out weapons from rogue states as well as the ones they get through the resources they raise from dirty deals like drugs. This therefore means that the coalition forces at an advantage since they have the legitimacy to use the most appropriate military technology in order to win (Kilcullen, 2009).
The last two areas of the thesis talk about the numbers of manpower as well as skills. The manpower issue is important. It has been supported by a number of modern day war strategists and commanders and this led to President Obama’s decision to send thirty thousand more troops to Afghanistan with an additional five to seven thousand expected to be given by the European partners in this venture. The advantage that sufficient troop numbers bring is the ability to cover as much ground as possible given the fact that the Taliban are widely spread and hard to single out. Superior combat skills are perhaps the most important in this venture (Sinno, 2008). The Afghanistani terrain is different and the nature of the enemy is unconventional. It is not the traditional enemy who was in the open and there was no requirement for discrimination when attacking. The Taliban are fluid and amorphous and can easily hide within the civilian quarters and then launch attacks on the coalition forces. This is why the troops in combat will need special skills to carefully track down and kill or arrest the members of the Taliban who may be within or without the civilian quarters (Giustozzi, 2009).
In conclusion, the Taliban are an unconventional enemy. Method is important and measurement, estimation of quantity, calculation, estimation of balance and victory can only follow one another to the end if care is taken. Indeed if the war in Afghanistan has to be won within the shortest time possible with little damage to the Americans, the coalition forces and the Afghanistan people and maximum impairment of the Taliban, cutting edge technology, espionage and sufficient forces together with superior combat skills appropriate for an amorphous enemy must be employed.