Asia News Network
The devastation caused to orchards in Afghanistan’s Kandahar by the use of heavy weaponry by US forces might not be as “dramatic” as the indiscriminate spraying of the defoliant Agent Orange in Viet Nam, yet it could cost the Americans much more than the estimated US$100 million lost by the local farming community.
For it has deprived them of their livelihood – in addition to several of their homes having being flattened – and that actually translates into near-hatred of the alien soldiers. Perhaps only memories of the oppression of the Taliban regime come in the way of the populace siding with homegrown guerrillas, as they did with the Viet Cong.
The American preference for using stand-off weaponry, not as “smart” as projected, has caused so much collateral damage in Afghanistan that even what passes as a government there has found it necessary to raise serious protest.
Not that it has much impact, because Washington has traditionally accorded American lives greater value than those of locals – would it have been so vocal on the Mumbai massacre of 26/11 had US citizens not been among the victims? – so it will continue to try and blast the insurgents from afar. Particularly since its own death roll keeps mounting without visible success on the ground, and the public opposition to its Afghan operations keeps mounting.
The experience of Iraq and Afghanistan has confirmed that while the ultra-modern warfare systems employed by American forces may force regime changes, they are only marginally effective when dealing with an insurgency – even in Iraq the British troops did better, though it must be conceded they were deployed in the relatively less-hostile southern part of the country. Apart from the huge part played by local factors – language, knowledge of the terrain, ability to operate in small self-sustaining units – the fighting often boils down to hand-to-hand combat in crowded areas.
Few regular armies can meet up to such requirements. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Pentagon seeks to learn from the experience, and perhaps expertise, that the Indian forces have gained over the years in the Northeast and Jammu & Kashmir. Sure there has been collateral damage and violation of human rights in both those troubled regions, yet critics of the Indian forces must recognise that few others have come to accept “fighting with one hand tied behind the back”.