In case you missed it, last week the Washington Post brought word of the new wrinkle to winning the War in Afghanistan: tanks, lots of them! For the first time in the war's history -- I think it's gone on long enough to have a "history," don't you -- M1 Abrams tanks will take on insurgents in the southwest of Afghanistan, and if they don't promise "shock and awe," they do promise "awe, shock, and firepower." And yes, that's a quote from a "U.S. officer familiar with the decision" to send a bunch of tanks to Afghanistan.
There's a lot to be worried about, actually. After many long years of explaining how counterinsurgency strategy is going to game-change the hell out of the troubled region, we learn things like this:
Despite an overall counterinsurgency strategy that emphasizes the use of troops to protect Afghan civilians from insurgents, statistics released by the NATO military command in Kabul and interviews with several senior commanders indicate that U.S. troop operations over the past two months have been more intense and have had a harder edge than at any point since the initial 2001 drive to oust the Taliban government.
The pace of Special Operations missions to kill or capture Taliban leaders has more than tripled over the past three months. U.S. and NATO aircraft unleashed more bombs and missiles in October - 1,000 total - than in any single month since 2001. In the districts around the southern city of Kandahar, soldiers from the Army's 101st Airborne Division have demolished dozens of homes that were thought to be booby-trapped, and they have used scores of high-explosive line charges - a weapon that had been used only sparingly in the past - to blast through minefields.
Sounds like we're set on upping the overall amount of ancillary collateral damage. But if you want a clear sign that the war is now being run by Milo Minderbinder, you have to read to the very end of the story:
"Why do you have to blow up so many of our fields and homes?" a farmer from the Arghandab district asked a top NATO general at a recent community meeting.
Although military officials are apologetic in public, they maintain privately that the tactic has a benefit beyond the elimination of insurgent bombs. By making people travel to the district governor's office to submit a claim for damaged property, "in effect, you're connecting the government to the people," the senior officer said.
It's a cunning strategy! Anyway, 2014 or bust, etc.
U.S. deploying heavily armored battle tanks for first time in Afghan war [Washington Post]
Afghans to Be Shocked, Awed By Novel Experience of Heavy Military Equipment, Explosions [Matt Yglesias]