While Kandahar and Fallujah are both located at ancient crossroads of civilization, the cities could not be more different. Fallujah lies in the heart of the ancient Assyrian civilization while Kandahar has always skirted two ancient empires. Fallujah is made up of a compact, densely-populated middle-eastern urban center while Kandahar is spread out over many thousands of acres with a central urban center and hundreds of outlying villages, nestled in some of the most rugged terrain on the face of the earth.
If you think it was difficult isolating the Fallujah battlefield, it was easy compared to the challenges of cordoning Kandahar. Clearing Kandahar will be a momentous task. The International Security Assistance Forces and the Afghan Army and Police will have a very difficult time clearing and holding Kandahar.
In the fall of 2004, Coalition Forces isolated Fallujah and evacuated most of the population before sweeping into the city to clear every room of every house. Then, they cordoned the city and only let residents back in. ISAF has no hope of isolating the battlefield of Kandahar, we will have to work to clear the area and we will have to work among the population. The Taliban know this truth. They will continue to use the people as shields and they will try to illicit violence that will cause civilian deaths.
The coming operation to wrest control of Kandahar and its surrounding districts will be tricky. I expect to see a sudden increase in ISAF military presence, followed by an inkwell strategy of expanding the ISAF security zone. There will be no massive sweep through the area like the fight to free Fallujah. Instead, the Taliban will wake up one morning and American, Afghan and Canadian soldiers will be on their doorstep. And, once there – they will stay.
Taliban leaders will be targeted; rounded up or killed. The rank and file Taliban soldiers will be given a choice – fight and die or surrender and re-integrate into the Afghan society. Once the streets of Kandahar City, Zhari, Panjwaii, and Arghandab are secure, the real work will begin.
The people of southern Afghanistan have lived through almost continuing struggles for control of their land for centuries. The only thing that the tribal elders know is struggle and maneuvering for power. They have learned that when their schemes fail, violence rules supreme. It will take more than a generation to change this mindset. Once there is a modicum of security in Kandahar, ISAF will help to set the people on the right track to peace and prosperity. Attempting to impose the Federal government in Kabul on the people of southern Afghanistan will not work. We must build a brand new Afghanistan from the ground up, not from the top-down. Let us all pray that General Petraeus succeeds.Read the full post and comments »