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THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

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Location: Douglas, Coffee Co., The Other Georgia, United States

Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

What a Surge Can't Solve in Afghanistan

David Ignatius writes in The Washington Post:

If there was one foreign policy issue on which Barack Obama and John McCain agreed during Friday night's debate, it was that the United States should send more troops to Afghanistan. The bipartisan enthusiasm for this surge is so strong that there has been relatively little discussion of whether this strategy makes sense.

Rather than more troops, the real game-changer in Afghanistan may be Gates's plan to spend an extra $1.3 billion on surveillance technology to find and destroy the leadership of the insurgency.

The Haqqani network, for example, is believed to be responsible for this year's Kabul bombings at the Serena Hotel in January, at the Victory Day parade in April and at the Indian Embassy in July. U.S. officials view the Haqqani group as "terrorists for hire," and they believe the organization has links with Pakistani intelligence. But [T]argeted Special Forces attacks on [the Haqqani network's]leadership are likely to have more impact than a general increase in U.S. troops.

The need for precise targeting is why Gates is stressing what's known as ISR -- short for "intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance." He has been pushing for more than a year (against foot-dragging by the Air Force) for a big increase in the use of drones and cheap manned aircraft to watch the roads and mountain passes of this huge country and spot the insurgents before they strike. This ISR surge has more than doubled the number of daily Predator patrols in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past year, from 12 in June 2007 to 28 today, and that number should reach 55 by the end of 2009.

By using ISR sensors, U.S. forces can see what's coming at them across Afghanistan's porous borders. And with new surveillance tools, they may be able to identify the networks and individuals that pose the biggest threat -- and then call in Special Forces teams to capture or kill insurgent leaders. "You don't hit a whole town, you hit the two people you want," says Lt. Gen. Richard Zahner, who heads a new ISR task force.

As Gen. McKiernan [the new U.S. commander, Gen. David McKiernan] says, "It's not just boots on the ground" that will bring success in Afghanistan, but a range of factors such as governance, economic development and relations with neighboring Pakistan. The idea that we can saturate that vast country with enough American soldiers to provide security for the population seems unrealistic, to put it mildly.

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