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

Monday, February 22, 2010

To the south of Marjah, in 2001: (Ugly) quote of the day

C.J. Chivers, whom I otherwise respect a lot, posted some genuinely interesting stuff but at the same time no very considerate analysis whatsoever at @War (an NYT blog). The latest: rambling about unseen ties of the insurgency in Marjah to Iraq. I will get back to this, because this is probably more than simply a poster on the wall, but less than what Chivers seems to think of among the wildest possibilities he seems to have been instinctively contemplating.
Joshua Foust rightly criticised Chivers' post for asking the wrong questions, saying: "I’d be more curious why a few hundred impoverished farmers with machine guns were made the target of a 10,000 man military campaign just because they supported the wrong side of the conflict—did they really pose that much of a strategic threat to the overall war?"
This is not the first time this far south that a lot of extremely well-prepared Western soldiers show up to kick some mostly unknown ass. Sorry for the expression, but that really nails it. The ultimate example would be a British SAS raid back in 2001. It was a spectacular raid the British special forces conducted, with an advance team doing a HALO parachute infiltration to set up a landing zone in the Registan desert. Then they approached their designated target near Point 2213, in Helmand, very near the Pakistani border (south of Malah do Kand) and, with air support, wiped it out in a battle where they suffered some casualties, while their opponents chose to fight to the death (with no alternative options available for them). The target was statedly an "opium storage plant doubling as a local Al Qaeda command center." If you have some ill feelings, like, what the hell, wait till you see this quote from the book about the operation by Mark Nicol, from page 193:
"Al Qaeda looked so malnourished that Jock could barely make out a body beneath the pile of bloodstained, dirty rags. 'Smelly little bastards,' he thought. They already stank from living in the inhumane conditions of southern Afghanistan, a place where only the weapons are clean."
I really don't know what to say to that. In all of its aspects, the author's narrative may not have reflected a soldier's thinking even at that time. And the soldiers should certainly know better by now.


Joshua Foust said...

I don't really have anything to add to the analysis (which is, as usual, excellent), other than to say "REGISTAN REPRESENT!"

Péter said...

Registan, ya rule! :)