Petraeus’ Commando Raids Killed Lots of Taliban. So?http://www.wired.com/
July 19, 2011
Ten dead or captured militants a day. That’s how many insurgents U.S. special operators nailed during David Petraeus’ year-long command of the Afghanistan war, which officially ended Monday. About the only thing those commandos didn’t do is stabilize Afghanistan.
In the past year-plus in Afghanistan, elite commandos conducted a staggering 2,832 raids, resulting in the deaths or captures of 3,775 insurgents, Kimberly Dozier of the Associated Press reports. Petraeus’ predecessor, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, a former Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) chief, oversaw about the same number of raids, but with only 2,381 insurgents neutralized.
To put it in context: that’s more than six raids a day, every day, for two years. Or maybe at night: McChrystal’s JSOC successor, Vice. Adm. William McRaven told Congress more than half of them, 1700 in a year, occur in the dark. No wonder JSOC was able to kill bin Laden. It had a lot of practice.
Why the jump in kills and captures? The most obvious explanation is the spike in spy planes, drones, blimps and other intelligence assets that began filling the Afghan skies during McChrystal’s tenure and ensconced themselves there under Petraeus. Allen’s elite forces have an impressive intelligence base to from.
They’ll need it.
Last week, Team Petraeus disclosed to Danger Room that insurgent attacks essentially leveled off in springtime 2011 — at their high point. Civilian deaths, the most important metric for progress under McChrystal, are up 20 percent from spring 2010. Afghanistan is a more violent place in 2011, with cumulative attacks up 51 percent in the last year.
Eastern Afghanistan, on the border with Pakistan, saw a 20 percent rise in attacks. Across the country, insurgent bombs are less effective than they used to be, but there are more of them — 1,300 per month, roughly — than ever.
And the Taliban might be taking a page from the U.S. kill/capture playbook. In the span of a week, it’s assassinated key officials loyal to the Karzai government, including the president’s own brother.
Raids aren’t the only things that Petraeus increased. His air war was dramatically more intense than McChrystal’s, with 5,800 air strikes launched during his year in command. And he led a larger U.S. force, over 100,000 troops, than will ever be in Afghanistan again.
Petraeus has boasted about the numbers of neutralized insurgents to anyone who’ll listen, and foreshadowed it since he arrived in Afghanistan by pointing to an increased raiding tempo. But the absolute most that can be said is that it appears for now to have stopped the growth of the insurgency, not made Afghanistan safer for its citizens.