Ground troops needed in Afghanistan: British analysts
Thursday October 18, 9:07 PM
LONDON, Oct 18 (AFP) - After 12 days of aerial bombardment ground troops must be deployed in Afghanistan if the US-led coalition is to successfully win the first leg in its war against terrorism, analysts and commentators said here Thursday.
"If the Americans want to destroy the regime (Taliban) and the Al-Qaeda network, they're going to have to put troops on the ground because they need to hold the ground, they can't just rely just on the Northern Alliance," said defense expert Paul Beaver.
The Northern Alliance, which was led by Ahmad Shah Masood until he was assassinated in early September, is the main armed opposition to the Taliban militia, which has controlled most of Afghanistan since it seized power in
The Taliban have been charged with harbouring Osama bin Laden, supposed mastermind of the September 11 suicide attacks in New York and Washington that killed more than 5,700 people.
"The problem is when to put them in (ground troops) and how, and where, and how many. I don't think the Americans are in a position where they know what exactly they can do," Beaver added.
American and British aerial bombardment has been continuing since October 7 against terrorist suspect bin Laden and his Taliban protectors.
The bombing runs on Afghanistan have focused on military targets in Kabul, the Taliban's headquarters in the southern city of Kandahar and the garrison city of Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan.
According to Beaver the Northern Alliance "is not representative of everybody in Afghanistan." If left to their owen devices "all we would be doing is replacing one despotic regime with another," he warned.
"So there are going to be ground troops involved," the British defence specialist concluded.
"Air power can only play a minor part. The smartest bomb cannot seek out individuals by name," wrote (Air Marshall) Timothy Garden in Thursday's Independent newspaper.
"Allowing the Northern Alliance's ragged army to sweep into Kabul is unlikely to be a recipe for peace, harmony and good governance. Whatever form of shared administration that follows the end of the Taliban government will require a strong international military force to ensure the rule of law," Garden said.
For Beaver, only three countries in the world today have the military capability to deploy ground trops effectively to the combat zone: the United States, Britain and France.
"Americans don't like their troops to be under command of foreign nations.
"If the French are prepared to work in a coalition, properly, under command, then it will be very successful, if the French have their own agenda then we have a problem," the specialist said.
The Daily Telegraph's defense expert John Keegan compared the military situation now to an ineffective bombing campaign in World War II between Sept 3, 1939 and May 10, 1940 that he calls "the phoney war."
"We now know little damage was done," wrote Keegan.
"Although the air forces are hitting targets, they are all far away and the results are difficult to estimate," wrote the expert of the present campaign.
The Financial Times underlined that "doubts are beginning to overshadow the progress of the campaign and the capacity of the military force, particularly airpower, to produce the delicate political solution required for Afghanistan's future."
"The absence of quick and visible military success is frustrating politicans concerned that they will lose the propaganda war before they have a chance to win on the ground, " the paper added.
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