What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Nu wepanz

An MStFB round-up of... nu wepanz (?)
I must admit I liked the dialogue in Krio English between Commander Zero and Danny Archer (the latter specialising in converting weapons to diamonds) in the movie Blood Diamond, not really caring about its authenticity or lack thereof too much. So I just thought I'd give a title using similarly modified English to this post, after all I'm about to finish it mentioning just that what I indicated: 'nu wepanz'. The apropos for this is, and so before we get to those nu wepanz I'd like to take my time discussing other issues as well, an article by Tom Hyland that aimes basically at stirring up public debate in Australia about Australia's present and future role in Afghanistan, in actually rather a pessimistic fashion (The Age, August 19). One debate-stimulating excerpt coming up here:
"... on August 8, about 30 Taliban armed with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades attacked infantry protecting army engineers working in or near the town of Tarin Kowt, in Oruzgan province. (Winning Afghan hearts and minds by fixing drains and building water tanks is so dangerous that the engineers are circled by protective rings of infantry and armoured vehicles.) Now you're about to be hit with a barrage of military jargon, but bear with me.
When an Australian ASLAV armoured vehicle (some are equipped with a 25-millimetre cannon that can fire 200 explosive shells a minute) went to the aid of the infantry, it came under fire from a volley of grenades from Taliban in another position. The Australians then called in Dutch Apache helicopters, which fire rockets, laser-guided missiles and a 30-millimetre cannon.
Against this firepower, the Taliban managed to fight from multiple positions for two hours. They didn't just shoot and scoot. They sustained some casualties but no one was captured, so most escaped, which suggests they can shelter among the local people whose hearts and minds we are seeking to win.
Before they were attacked, the Australian troops noticed a change in the local "atmosphere", suggesting civilians were not behaving normally, indicating they knew the Taliban were up to something.
This prompts two other suggestions: the Taliban are either of the local people (which is very bad news for the Australians) or can impose themselves on the local people (which is still bad news for the Australians).

Either way, the Taliban have shown they are able to get close to the Australians in a populated area near a major military base and fight them for hours, despite their massive disadvantage in firepower, communications and mobility."
Tom Hyland brings up many important and also familiar issues here. Is it futile to start a counterinsurgency if there's significant public support for insurgents in the first place? Not answering that directly, well, I'd cautiously suggest that 'we', 'over here', also have security interests, so it certainly may be legitimate at least. So it depends. One should also wonder actually how great and how genuine support for the insurgency really is (it may not be so widespread, and it may be about just doing what it takes to survive, on the part of the person giving support in some form).
The other issue touched upon above is the need for overwhelming and destructive firepower. That, as many, including Tom Hyland, have noted before, is partly a consequence of there not being enough troops on the ground, as well as of there being much sacrifice-aversion in troop-contributing countries. It is also something that influences battlefield evolution (meant as not just the evolution of hardware here) in you know which direction. No, I wouldn't want to use the term 'Iraqisation', I'd rather say 'in the direction of unrestricted fourth generation warfare', pushing guerrillas to avoid open confrontations (although I can't imagine the Taliban switching to that mode as much as Iraqi insurgents did).
Actually, there's more overwhelming firepower on the way. Right, this now is the part about nu wepanz here.
British troops, who had earlier asked for 155 mm artillery in vain, this summer started receiving, as a bit of a substitute, the GMLRS weapon system, sometimes tagged the "70 km sniper" - from the mentioned distance it can both blanket a large area or hit the the right door or window of a house with a precision strike (though take into account that we're talking about the use of a highly explosive payload delivered to any address, so however accurately that address may be identified, it is still risky, as opposed to risk-free, destruction). First firing of the nu wepan took place in Helmand, in July most likely (a British MoD release about this came out on July 24).
Another system expected to be introduced to the battlefield is the Reaper UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle), a descendant of the Predator family - larger than the ancestors, however, and able to carry fourteen Hellfire missiles (or less missiles but also laser guided bombs, alternatively), thus equipped with significant hunt and kill capabilities (as opposed to being restricted to just hunting primarily). Reducing the time under which an identified target may be hit, the Reaper could actually help at times to avoid civilian casualties (less of a risk of somebody walking by after an air strike is deemed necessary, since in this case it is not a ground patrol coming under fire from a tree line that calls in the strike, but a patrolling asset doing the air strike itself).
Getting back to Australia, well, to the attention of one of my readers in particular: Australia is apparently not only planning on buying those 250 Bushmaster vehicles, but some already speak of a possible future Australian procurement of Reapers, too. Hm. Any war to be mentioned?Warning: misleading visual information - Unlike GMLRS rockets and Reapers do, Autobots are NOT going to Afghanistan yet

1 comment:

Reaper Fan said...

MQ-9 Reaper Update The Reaper has yet to be required to deliver munitions against enemy targets. Approved by Air Combat Command in 2004, the Air Force currently has nine Reapers in its inventory.