Leadership: November 6, 2001

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A Pentagon battle over strategy and tactics in Afghanistan continues. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld has already tangled with air force and navy air war experts over what kind of effort will do the most good for the war effort. Afghanistan does not provide the kinds of targets American air power experts are accustomed to dealing with. Moreover, for the last few decades, the air force has been moving away from close support for ground troops. But now most of the best targets are those near Northern Alliance troops. Moreover, the air force is eager to get more of their aircraft into the fight. But this requires land bases. The only ones available are in the Persian Gulf and Diego Garcia. The air force has been able to get some F-15s (flying, apparently, from the Persian Gulf) into the battle. The US now has permission to use some old Russian bases in Tajikistan. But each F-15 sortie flown from those bases will require ten tons of bombs, fuel and spare parts. And first many plane loads of support equipment must be flown in. Rumsfeld is reluctant to dedicate that much precious airlift to that. There is also unhappiness with the way general Franks (the overall commander of the Afghan war) is running ground operations. News articles assert that the raid on a Taliban headquarters came up dry and ran into unexpected opposition, and that the ranger parachute drop was mainly a PR exercise. The Pentagon flat out denied that there were any casualties from the Taliban. Another general Franks was criticized for overly cautious leadership during the ground fighting in the 1991 Gulf war. It is feared that there is still reluctance in the Pentagon to mixing it up on the ground. Such an attitude severely restricts the ability to win on the ground. The debate continues, with the outcome in doubt.

 


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