Leadership: August 14, 2005

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One bit of information about the 2001 campaign in Afghanistan, that didnt get much media play because it was good news and good news doesnt sell, was the origins of the battle plan that took down the Taliban in two months. The plan was not developed on the spot, but was actually created before September 11, 2001. You could have picked up on that if you followed the chatter in the military media, and online discussion areas. Other clues came from the very public deployment of U.S. Army Special Forces in Uzbekistan (right across the border from Afghanistan), earlier in 2001. There were also rumors of American and British commando movements in Pakistan, and Afghanistan itself at the same time. And then there is the fact that CENTCOM commander general Tommy Franks briefed president Bush on this plan on September 21st. You dont put a plan like this together in less than ten days. Such things are simply not done at the Pentagon. 

Professionals in the military planning business would tell you that the Afghanistan war plan was driven by logistics (or lack of same.) The more cynical observer would say the plan was created out of desperation. The cynics would be wrong. In early 2001, there was a civil war going on in Afghanistan, and the Taliban were losing more support each month. Al Qaeda had made itself very unpopular in Afghanistan, and it was obvious that with a little extra air power, the Taliban could be crippled, and defeated. Thus it came to pass, that a few hundred Special Forces troopers, along with a few dozen CIA agents and a few hundred U.S. Navy and Air Force aircraft overhead, Taliban power was broken, and the Northern Alliance rebels swept into power. The new JDAM (GPS guided bomb) played a big role in making the air power so effective. But JDAM was no secret, although most journalists were slow to catch on how revolutionary and effective JDAM was. But the JDAM had been in development for years, and the air force was not shy about issuing glowing press reports of each successful round of tests.

Apparently the only things that the plan did not cover was the ability of the U.S. Navy to get six carriers off the coast of Pakistan so quickly, and eventually eight carriers, including one that served as a base for SOCOM helicopters. The second thing the plan did not envision was the speed with which the Taliban would be defeated. It was known that the Taliban was weak, but just how weak was an unknown. The navys exceptional effort had a lot to do with the rapid fall of the Taliban. In the early weeks, just about the only warplanes over Afghanistan were American carrier aircraft. The speed of the American intervention, and the accuracy and power of the JDAMs, was such that the Taliban were knocked off balance, and never recovered.

 


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