Recently, I read a book in which the Afghan freedom fighters told the author how they fought individual battles against Soviet troops and eventually with US help forced them to withdraw from Afghanistan. Now as I read about the war the US is fighting against the Taliban, I recognize some of the same tactics used before are being used now against our troops and our allies. The war is dictated by the terrain, and the terrain is unchanged and unchanging from the time of Alexander the Great, through the experiences of the British, the Soviets and our own to May, 2011.
There was something hauntingly familiar about the description of our Afghan war experience and then I realized what it was. Our opponents in Afghanistan are mountain warriors who are using much less sophisticated weapons than we are. I had read Forrest Carter’s book about Geronimo, entitled Watch for Me on the Mountain,
Cover of Watch for me on the mountain
and the war with Geronimo was the similar, hauntingly familiar experience. Geronimo led a small group of mountain warriors armed with relatively primitive weapons against the US Army fighting in the mountains of Arizona in the 1860s, 1870s and 1880s. Both the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Apache in Arizona are and were much more at home in the mountainous environment than we are.
With great difficulty, we managed to defeat Geronimo because he had few warriors and they were surrounded by a hostile, Anglo population. The reverse is true in Afghanistan. The Taliban have a nearly endless supply of recruits both in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and they have a large surrounding population who support, aid and hide them when necessary.
Because of the similarities and because of the differences between the wars in Arizona and Afghanistan, I believe that the war against the Taliban cannot be won. The war against Geronimo was here in the US and the supply lines were much shorter; the war in Afghanistan is many thousands of miles distant and our supply lines pass partly through a hostile Pakistan.
Therefore, I urge a negotiated settlement, and the withdrawal of our combat forces from Afghanistan. Bin Laden is dead and we have punished the Taliban and Afghanistan enough for harboring him before and for a short time after September 11, 2001. We now know he hid for years in Pakistan, and some in power in Pakistan knew it. Pakistan supports the Taliban in Afghanistan, but not in Pakistan, as a counter balance to India.