02. October 2004 · Comments Off on 4 Months In ‘Nam, And He’s Smarter Than Our Generals · Categories: Politics

Lt. Smash catches Kerry’s intellectual dishonesty over Bin Laden in Tora Bora:

This is not a military dictatorship. The President makes the decision to go to war, after consulting with Congress. He may even approve or veto specific military strategies. But he does not write the war plan – the Pentagon does that. Our war planners are some of the most brilliant, thoughtful, and well-educated warriors on the planet. They’ve studied Clausewitz, Sun Tzu, and Mahan. They’ve dissected and analyzed all the major battles in history, from Thermopylae to Desert Storm. They know about logistics, intelligence, artillery, air support, guerilla tactics, and psychological warfare. They are professionals – the best of the best.

The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines who fight these battles are not automatons. We teach our warfighters to think and react. We train them to adapt to the situation on the ground, and learn from their mistakes. And we are proud of what we have accomplished. When Kerry calls Iraq “a grand diversion,” and “the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he insults all of us, and denigrates our efforts.

But Kerry also criticizes President Bush directly for making specific mistakes. For instance, several times during the debate, Kerry accused Bush of “outsourcing” the war in Afghanistan, and letting Bin Laden get away at Tora Bora.

KERRY: Unfortunately, [Bin Laden] escaped in the mountains of Tora Bora. We had him surrounded. But we didn’t use American forces, the best trained in the world, to go kill him. The President relied on Afghan warlords and he outsourced that job too. That’s wrong.

So here’s my question for Senator Kerry, the armchair general (who served in Vietnam, don’t you know):

What would you have done differently in Afghanistan?

Presumably, he would have used American military forces, instead of “outsourcing” the effort to local warlords. But what forces where available in theater at the time? The first large contingent of conventional forces in Afghanistan, a brigade of 1,000 US Marines, arrived at an airstrip near Kandahar on November 25, 2001. That city, which had been the last stronghold of Taliban leader Omar, didn’t fall to anti-Taliban forces until December 7.

The only other US forces in Afghanistan at the time were Special Forces, and CIA paramilitaries. Their job was to help organize the various militias into a coherent force capable of defeating the Taliban, and to call in Coalition air strikes as required. It was this combination of Special Forces and local militia that had already driven the Taliban from the strategic city of Mazar-e-Sharif, the airbase at Bagram, and the capital Kabul.

The only US military on the ground at Tora Bora was a contingent of about two dozen Special Forces who were airlifted in to the area on December 2. Their mission was to coordinate the ground attack and to “laze” targets for US bombers. There is no way that these men could have taken Tora Bora without assistance – And the Marines in Kandahar already had their hands full. In any event, Tora Bora was completely overrun by December 12 – but not before the al Qaeda leadership escaped to Pakistan.

Let’s make one thing clear: outside of this “outsourcing” plan, there would have been no significant military action in Afghanistan prior to November 25 – but by the time those first Marines arrived, the Taliban had already been largely defeated. “Outsourcing” the war in Afghanistan was not Bush’s idea. It was the Pentagon and the CIA that came up with this plan. But President Bush did approve it, and it worked.

The only military alternative to this plan would have been a massive invasion of Afghanistan with several heavy divisions. Of course, these divisions would have had to get to Afghanistan by coming ashore in Pakistan and driving through the ungoverned (and largely hostile) Tribal Areas, where the Pakistani army wouldn’t even go. In any event, it would have taken several more months for these forces to arrive in theater – plenty of time for the terrorists to dig in and prepare for the fight.

Does anyone see any problems with this plan? It seems to me that the Russians tried this approach a while back, and the British before them. Both got their asses handed to them. Nevertheless, I’m sure that the Pentagon presented this option to Bush, with all of the caveats above. In my judgement, Bush was right to reject this plan, and go instead with the “outsourcing” approach.

Presented with the same options, would Kerry have made the right decision? Judging from his remarks last night, I’d have to say “no.”

I am wondering why no-one calls Kerry on his stock line about us “fighting a war in Iraq, while Bin Laden in still in Afghanistan.” When all our intelligence tells us that, if he is even alive, he is actually in the tribal areas of Pakistan, where overt military actions are not diplomatically prudent.

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