The London Telegraph reports on a new tactical aggressiveness from American troops in Afghanistan which has the Taliban rocked back on its heels and unable to press forward with its expect spring offensive. The new tactics involve the heavy use of helicopter gunships and a merciless push to finish engagements. A senior Taliban commander has found exactly what that means (via Hot Air):
Caught in the middle of the Helmand river, the fleeing Taliban were paddling their boat back to shore for dear life.
Smoke from the ambush they had just sprung on American special forces still hung in the air, but their attention was fixed on the two helicopter gunships that had appeared above them as their leader, the tallest man in the group, struggled to pull what appeared to be a burqa over his head.
As the boat reached the shore, Captain Larry Staley tilted the nose of the lead Apache gunship downwards into a dive. One of the men turned to face the helicopter and sank to his knees. Capt Staley’s gunner pressed the trigger and the man disappeared in a cloud of smoke and dust.
By the time the gunships had finished, 21 minutes later, military officials say 14 Taliban were confirmed dead, including one of their key commanders in Helmand.
The mission is typical of a new, aggressive, approach adopted by American forces in southern Afghanistan and particularly in Helmand, where British troops last year bore the brunt of some of the heaviest fighting since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.
The Teleghraph includes a video presentation that should be seen as a companion to the article. In it, the narrator says that “the effect on the Taliban has been dramatic,” and it certainly was in this case. The commander who died in this engagement was Mul;ah Najibullah, a commander in the original Taliban who eluded us in 2001. He had been an official in Mullah Omar’s government in Afghanistan prior to getting ejected in the American invasion after 9/11.
American troops no longer break off engagements when Taliban guerillas start to flee. The British had been hard pressed in Helmand up to now, but as the Telegraph reports, they partly caused their own problems. British commanders had offered cease-fires in Helmand to allow for the Taliban to end the fighting and work with the Coalition, but all it did was to allow the Taliban to regroup and seize positions. The new American commander has put an end to all cease-fires, and has ordered constant pressure on the terrorists.
As a result, the Taliban have found it impossible to mount an offensive. They have tried raids and ambushes, but the superior firepower and the ability to get into the air makes ambushes a trap for the attackers. As this raid demonstrates, any gains made in raids last for moments, and the raiders and their commanders pay with their lives — and gain nothing.
The reporter says that the success or failure of the Taliban depends on their response to the gunships. However, it goes deeper than that. The success or failure of the Taliban depends on the commitment to fight to the last on the part of the Coalition. Now that we have started to do that, the Taliban cannot possibly hope to dislodge American and British forces. One cannot be merciful to terrorists and hope to prevail, and the Coalition may finally have learned that lesson.