Driven is not Defeated

U.S. general: Taliban beaten in Helmand province

U.S. forces have driven the Taliban from most towns and villages in the strategic Helmand province of Afghanistan, leaving incoming troops with the mission of holding key areas and rebuilding the economy, Marine commanders say.

The problem with “driven” Taliban is that most of them have been driven into Pakistan. They are not “defeated.”

Still, it’s nice to see that some control is being regained. I wish we’d keep a lid on the victory talk, though. Or maybe it’s much more significant than Murdoc realizes.

Marines now control most of the major towns and villages in Helmand and are pushing the Taliban into remote areas where it will be hard for them to thrive or influence the population.

“We’re not taking a break during the winter season,” said Marine Brig. Gen. Joseph Osterman, who will lead ground combat troops in the incoming command.

Marines plan to launch an offensive to seize Marjah, the Taliban’s remaining stronghold in Helmand.

Driving the enemy into the hinterlands is a good short-term security solution. But it is not the same as defeating them. If we can buy time to build up the Afghan forces, great. If not, or if the Afghan forces simply don’t get the job done, there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

I fear that this talk of “defeating” the enemy will give people the wrong impression and create unrealistic expectations. (via Mudville)


  1. I worked out of Kandahar province when I was there last; the Brits were responsible for Helmand, but Kandahar Airfield (KAF) ws their bridgehead for ops in the SE (the two provinces above, + Zabol and Uruzgan provinces). I have to give the Brits full credit………they were not at all afraid to mix it up with the Taliban………….there just weren’t enough British troops to occupy the areas they cleared though. So they ended up going over the same ground again and again; must have been very frustrating for them.

    Anyway………….it’s good to see troop strengths going up in the area, enabling the coalition to finally “clear and hold). There simply can’t be any significant infrastructure reconstruction (the BIG compalint of most locals outside of the provincial capitals) without security being permanently established in any given locale. Semper Fi and great job Marine Corps!

  2. In a COIN fight, driving the enemy away from the population for a long enough time that the population can build up to resist their return IS defeating them.

    The key is to be sure they just didn’t relocate to another part of the population that you can’t protect, where they can resume their activities of undermining local government. That’s generally been our problem — go in strong in one area, the insurgents relocate, and since we don’t have enough troops, they just build strength elsewhere until we decide to go chase them out again. That sort of “whack-a-mole” approach to counterinsurgency is doomed to failure.

    1. Yes, if they don’t just return a week from next Tuesday. )Which is what you said.)

      If we can keep security good in enough places all at the same time, the build-up could work. Hopefully the additional troops will be enough to make that possible.

  3. Sounds a lot like the way the Viet Cong were “driven” from various places in the Veitnam War.

    This “endeavor” is totally pointless, because in a guerrilla war, the enemy’s ability to fight is governed solely by WILL — we could push the Taliban completely out of Afghanistan, and they’ll still find a way back in.

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