- Politics and Social Issues»
- Asia Political & Social Issues
History is Repeating with Afghanistan
Anyone who states that the war in Afghanistan and what happened in the Vietnam war are totally different does not know history. The two wars, despite the advancements in armor and technology, are twins in many ways and the outcomes will resemble one another.
Afghanistan has always been plagued by a corrupt government and leader that the US sowed the seeds to. They have a army trained by Americans or NATO personnel that is unreliable, even their best troops are mediocre. They have no airforce and have been trained to rely on American firepower, whether it is an airstrike or artillery, to save them when the zone is too hot. In Afghanistan, most of the population does not trust the government nor its military to save them from the taliban. The police are as corrupt as the government. Its neighboring countries continue to pose problems from chasing the enemy across the border to engage them to providing sanctuaries that cannot be attacked for political reasons. The use of military force is curtailed by its government. Despite all the efforts of America to make Afghanistan modern and improving its infrastructure, from roads, dams, crops and much more, it remains as bad as it ever was because it cannot be maintained.
Terrorist attacks come in all shapes and sizes occurring with no real way to prevent them. The enemy fights for a few hours, changes clothes, and then becomes a friend or they simply vanish. Americans never really knew who their enemy might be- was it a kid, a woman, a man, an Afghan soldier? The Taliban could and still blend into the local population like casper the ghost. Winning the hearts and minds has been the battle all along, each side doing nice things for those neutrals or through draconian scare tactics, in the case of the Taliban.
In the summer of 2012, the US conducted an experiment to determine if the Afghan army could prevail in a major battle after the US left in 2014. The battle occurred in Bala Murghab in the northwest area. There was a strong Taliban presence looking for a fight. The best Afghan battalion of 600 men was assigned to the area. The troops were informed that the enemy will attack and when it does, there will be no US air support, only Afghan air support. As the battle progressed, the US advisors watched the debacle unfold as the best Afghan troops chose to cut deals with the enemy instead of fight them. Patrols stopped. The security buffer zone around the town, which had been 20 miles before it started , quickly shrank to the city only! When troops were ordered to attack or deploy, they mutinied instead. Troop morale sank like the Titanic within a few days. As to air support from the fledgling air force, they seldom hit targets and as soon as there was real antiaircraft fire, they went home.
The whole experiment results were kept quiet until now. I wonder why!
If you are too young to know Vietnam war history, everything above is exactly a mirror of events in that war from 1963 onward. The only difference were the cast of actors. The length of the two wars are eerily the same also. The biggest difference is costs and the KIA totals, but what happened in Vietnam will come to pass in Afghanistan. The other difference was the terrain, one was jungle, the other barren.
The South Vietnam government was horribly corrupt with US aid, their troops were always unreliable unless with US troops and if there was no artillery or US air support, the army of South Vietnam (ARVN) always melted away in battle. The South Vietnamese airforce was much bolder and better, however. American grunts then never could trust any vietnamese because by day, they were friends, by night, part of the Viet Cong. Women and children all laid and became booby traps to US soldiers. Roadside bombs were equally deadly. The political entities restricted what the military could do and how much. The enemy attacked and ran back into Laos, Thailand or China knowing Americans would not attack there usually. Russia supplied the enemy with all sorts of weapons and food. Winning the hearts and minds tactics were the same by both sides.
When the end came starting in 1975, the ARVN melted and ran knowing that American air support would not come and their own airforce was ineffective. It was US airpower that made the ARVN willing to stand and fight. Short on supply, the ARVN basically collapsed. The government fled with riches leaving those in Saigon on their own. Even the enemy was shocked to see how easy their Spring Offensive was.
Now, in 2014, history very well may repeat in general terms. The Taliban will conduct probes to test the Afghan army before conducting a large offensive. It seems likely that history is repeating unless America remains in Afghanistan with some presence. That may be the key difference to avoid repeating history's debacle.