File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0110, message 97

Date: Tue, 16 Oct 2001 19:53:07 +0100
Subject: What price civilian casualties?

       Generals at odds with politicians on strategy

        By Julian Borger and Richard Norton-Taylor

 [The Guardian - UK - Monday October 15, 2001]:
 The Bush administration is growing increasingly alarmed by the
 direction of the military campaign in Afghanistan after a week of
 almost continuous bombing has failed to dislodge either Osama bin
 Laden or the Taliban leadership.

 In the absence of new intelligence on the whereabouts of the
 Saudi-born extremist accused of masterminding the September 11
 terrorist attacks, US generals are under pressure from civilian defence
 officials to send greater numbers of special forces into Afghanistan to
 try to accomplish what the bombing failed to do - flush out a target.

 But the Pentagon's top brass are reluctant to deploy their best troops
 in the absence of good intelligence about Bin Laden's whereabouts,
 and before further bombing has softened expected resistance on the

 The defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, is reported to be
 increasingly frustrated by the caution of the generals and their
 inability to come up with a creative battle plan. One of his aides was
 quoted in today's edition of Newsweek as comparing the attitude of
 today's Pentagon to the conventional thinking familiar in the Gulf war
 - a thinking now considered to be out of date and inappropriate for
 the delicate nature of the war against terrorism. "The media are
 preparing to cover a second Gulf war," the aide said, "and the military
 are preparing to fight one."

 It was always assumed that the second phase of the military
 campaign in Afghanistan would involve the deployment of significant
 numbers of special forces, but as the moment drew closer yesterday
 differences were becoming more visible over how many should be
 used and in what manner. Mr Rumsfeld had taken office planning a
 radical shake-up of the military hierarchy, but did not have time to do
 so before the US came under attack on September 11. After the
 suicide attacks on New York and Washington were traced to Bin
 Laden and his camps in Afghanistan, Mr Rumsfeld gave his top
 generals the task of drawing up a radical and innovative battle plan.

 His aides predicted that apart from a few opening air strikes to
 destroy the Taliban's air defences, the war would be a largely covert
 conflict. Instead the first week of the campaign has involved wave
 after wave of Gulf war-style strikes, and a rising toll of claimed civilian

 The traditionalist generals believe that there are more military targets
 in Afghanistan which can be hit from the air, and have backed the
 renewed use of heavy bombers this week, after a weekend in which
 most strikes were carried out by smaller, tactical strikers launched
 from carriers in the Arabian sea.

 One potential target is the Taliban's 55th Brigade, made up principally
 of Arab fighters who are thought to constitute the regime's Praetorian

 The first week of bombing has not "smoked out" Bin Laden or the
 Taliban leadership from their strongholds, as President Bush had
 hoped, and the Pentagon's military planners are said to be still
 operating in an intelligence vacuum. Some feel the job of finding
 these elusive targets belongs to the diplomats and the spies. "I hope
 the military isn't given this to solve," General Anthony Zinni, the
 former head of the Pentagon's central command, is reported to have
 grumbled to other officers.

 British defence officials were yesterday giving the clear impression
 that military planners are deeply frustrated by the lack of intelligence
 about the impact of the air campaign and what next they should do to
 attack such elusive targets.

 They say they are continuing to look at all the options for the
 deployment of ground troops, including "small units" - a reference to
 special forces - or "larger numbers" - the prospect of airborne troops
 gaining a bridgehead inside Afghanistan as a base for raids against
 Taliban forces.

 But sources describe the plans as "paper talk" and say no decision
 has been made.

 Top officers in the Pentagon are leaning away from setting up a base
 inside Afghanistan on the grounds that it would be vulnerable.
 Instead the most likely option is that helicopter-borne special forces
 units will launch their missions from the deck of the Kitty Hawk
 aircraft carrier in the Arabian sea.

 Military planners are concerned about the approaching winter and the
 pressures on the Pakistani leader, General Pervez Musharraf, as well
 as the immediate tactical problem of knowing where to strike against
 the forces of an unconventional enemy.

 While most of the Taliban's air defences have been destroyed, their
 light forces and the small open-backed lorries they use to move about
 the country were reported yesterday to be mostly intact.

 The Afghan militia's deputy prime minister, Haji Abdul Kabir,
 yesterday offered to hand Bin Laden over to a neutral country if the
 US provided evidence of his guilt. But the offer, a reiteration of
 previous Taliban proposals, was immediately rejected by President

 A White House spokeswoman said: "The president has been very
 clear: there will be no negotiations."

                                BUT NO NEARER TO VICTORY
             by Julian Borger in Washington and Luke Harding in Islamabad

[The Guardian - UK - Monday October 15, 2001]:  At one end of the US war machine are
people like Donald Rumsfeld, the ultimate defense intellectual who views the war on
terrorism as an intriguing puzzle requiring new ways of thinking. At the other are
the long-serving men in uniform such as General Tommy Franks, the former artillery
officer leading the campaign.

Gen Franks is the commander-in-chief of the central command, whose headquarters are
in Tampa Florida, from where he is orchestrating the air strikes on Afghanistan. He
is a blunt, outspoken veteran of the Vietnam and Gulf wars and, by all accounts, he
has taken to heart the lessons of both: be very sure of what you are doing before you
put soldiers on the ground, and rely as much as possible on the awesome destructive
capability of US air power.

The two men embody the different approaches circulating in the corridors of the
Pentagon over how to pursue the war on terrorism. Winter is coming to the Afghan
highlands and decisions have to be made quickly, but a week's bombing under Gen
Franks's command has so far failed to push Osama bin Laden or the Taliban leader,
Mullah Mohammed Omar, into the open where they could be picked out by an air strike,
or grabbed by special forces.

That would have been considered a bonus in the initial phase of the campaign, but in
the absence of such a stroke of luck, differences over how the plan should proceed
have come to the surface.

Mr Rumsfeld and his civilian advisers believe the US military does not have the
flexibility to combat an enemy like Bin Laden. They point to a computerized war game
in 1997 in which the army took on a terrorist organization similar to al-Qaida, and
lost. The generals, the analysts concluded, spent too much time looking for things to
bomb, and not enough time looking for innovative methods of eliminating the enemy.

Mr Rumsfeld is reported to be so frustrated with the pursuit of the war by Gen
Franks's command, with its emphasis on waves of Gulf-style bombing sorties, that he
is pressing to have operational control shifted from Tampa to Washington. Mr Rumsfeld
and his circle want to pursue a new military doctrine built around small groups of
special forces soldiers who will dart in and out of Afghanistan looking for
intelligence and targets.

Uniformed top brass are more comfortable with the technique of the Powell doctrine -
named after secretary of state, Colin Powell - which dictates the overwhelming use of
air power until the deployment of ground troops is either unnecessary or met with
minimal resistance.

This week US and British special forces units are expected to be deployed in
Afghanistan, but they are being sent on highly dangerous fishing expeditions,
concealing themselves along the sides of dirt roads and mountain paths on the chance
that Bin Laden or Mullah Omar, or their top lieutenants, might pass by.

Senior Pentagon officers have pointed out the dangers in such missions. The terrain
is littered with millions of landmines, and "butterfly" anti-personnel mines, dropped
by Soviet helicopter pilots over hostile territory in the 80s.

Before sending in larger numbers of troops, the traditionalist generals want to
continue the air campaign. It has been kept up for seven days, with only a pause on
Friday, the Muslim day of prayer.

But such niceties are not helping the state department efforts to keep the
international coalition together.

At the weekend the Pentagon admitted that an F-18 navy strike aircraft had
accidentally dropped a 900kg (2,000lb) bomb on a suburb of Kabul, killing four
civilians and wounding eight. Latitude and longitude were mixed up when the
coordinates were entered into its guidance system.

The Taliban are claiming that civilian victims have been more numerous. In any case
the distinction between combatants and non-combatants is blurred. Many of the "troop
concentrations" targeted are conscripts who may have been market vendors only a few
days earlier and who were rounded up by Taliban press gangs.

These troops have been hit by cluster bombs and on one occasion by a huge
bunker-buster bomb which would have burrowed into the ground beneath them and then
swallowed them as the explosion opened up a gaping crater.

As reports of the casualties percolate into the Middle East and Pakistan, support for
the US is fast eroding. A poll of Pakistanis found that 83% supported the Taliban in
its confrontation with the US. According to Newsweek, which conducted the poll,
support for the Afghan militia jumped by 40% when the bombing began last week.

The Taliban are beginning to exploit the TV images of US mistakes by inviting
reporters to view the damage. This "collateral damage" is inevitable in a bombing
campaign. The only way to avoid it is to put troops on the ground, but that is
fraught with human, military and political problems. The US population remains
virtually unanimous in support of the campaign, but that may change with the return
of body bags.

The Pentagon's military leaders have painful memories of the last two comparable
special forces missions, which both ended in fiascos - the 1980 "Desert One"
operation to rescue US hostages in Iran, and the 1993 raid on Mogadishu, Somalia, by
Rangers and Delta Force commandos, which failed at the cost of 18 dead, 73 wounded,
and two helicopters shot down.

Some in the Pentagon believe Bin Laden may not be in the caves of the Hindu Kush
after all, but could be hiding in the warren of slums outside Kandahar. There, he
would probably be protected by fervently committed guerrillas. Going in after him
would be an operation reminiscent of the Somalia disaster.


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