Friday, October 22, 2010

Rocket Science, Awesome Intel in Afghanistan: Giving us the Edge

Some good headlines lately. Not just FoxNews but the NY Times:

A series of civilian and military operations around the strategic southern province, made possible after a force of 12,000 American and NATO troops reached full strength here in the late summer, has persuaded Afghan and Western officials that the Taliban will have a hard time returning to areas they had controlled in the province that was their base.

Some of the gains seem to have come from a new mobile rocket that has pinpoint accuracy — like a small cruise missile — and has been used against the hideouts of insurgent commanders around Kandahar. That has forced many of them to retreat across the border into Pakistan. Disruption of their supply lines has made it harder for them to stage retaliatory strikes or suicide bombings, at least for the moment, officials and residents said.

The concern is that they may regroup and attack elsewhere, but apparently we are getting better civilian cooperation and intel as well:

But Kandahar represents the heartland of the Taliban insurgency and is the main focus of the large influx of American troops and Afghan government forces. “Afghans will tell you, if you have a peaceful Kandahar, you will have a peaceful Afghanistan,” General Carter said. “I think only time will tell.”[snip]

Lt. Col. Rodger Lemons, commanding Task Force 1-66 in Arghandab, said he had seen insurgent attacks drop from 50 a week in August to 15 a week two months later. That may be because of the onset of colder weather, when fighting tends to drop off, but Colonel Lemons said he felt the Taliban was losing heart.

“A lot are getting killed,” he said. “They are not receiving support from the local population, they are complaining that the local people are not burying their dead, and they are saying: ‘We are losing so many we want to go back home.’ ”

The key is confidence in our keeping the pressure on, and whether the Afghan government (and ours) can be trusted to see this thing through.

And Slate, no rightie site:

It's the intelligence that's changed in recent months—and it has changed dramatically.

Along with the surge of troops and the shift toward much more aggressive attacks on insurgency strongholds (as reported here last week), Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has intensified intelligence-gathering operations to a still greater (though less-reported) extent.

The air over Afghanistan's heavy fighting spots is jammed with intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance devices—drones, towers, even blimps filled with various sensors. (One senior officer told me that the number of these blimps has soared from eight to 64 just in the last month.)

All this information is collected and interpreted by a growing number of imaging and intelligence analysts. Still more important, it's coordinated with information gathered on the ground by special-operations officers and—increasingly—by Afghan security forces, who are better able to gain the trust of local Afghans who dislike the Taliban.

Other worries--Wikileaks. More at the Long War Journal. And Michael Yon.

And then there's the widening war on our freedoms at home.

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