Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Marines vs Taliban: you do the math

From Deutsche Presse-Agentur:

Afghan home of Taliban founder defies conquest

ZHARI DISTRICT, July 30 (DPA) - "If we go 300 metres we come under sporadic fire, any further it's heavy fire - and we are under surveillance 24/7," says a Canadian infantryman, peering over sandbags toward the former home of Taliban chief Mullah Omah...

The village in Kandahar province's Zhari district is where the fugitive mullah lived and preached before he roused followers against brutal local warlords in 1994...

"It's the cultural centre of the Taliban so that tends to be the rallying cry that's used here," Captain Darren Hart, acting operations officer for Canada's Task Force Zhari, said of this nest of resistance covering some 65 square kilometres.

"I don't see them giving it up and abandoning it."

But the tenacious defence of the insurgents, estimated to number in "scores rather than hundreds," goes beyond ideology and identity to embrace hard tactics, the officer notes...

Despite a chain of outposts guarding the twin-lane highway, the militants regularly encroach on the traffic, destroying vehicles with roadside bombs and laying waste to convoys carrying supplies for the military.

On one day in mid-July, five tankers were ambushed and destroyed with rockets a kilometre from Spin Pir, incinerating 150,000 litres of fuel intended for military operations in neighbouring Helmand province. The next day a police column came under a barrage of fire in almost the same spot, losing a jeep to another rocket... (link)
Note that "scores rather than hundreds" of Taliban are holding an area some 65 square km in size. This makes them about a bazillion times more capable than even the US Marine Corps.

As we have noted before, the US Marines - with a force of about 2400 - are holding a postage stamp-sized piece of Garmsir district in Helmand province. To review:

A US Marines unit arrived in Afghanistan in the spring. After a month of waiting and doing nothing while trapped in an apparent bureaucratic SNAFU, the 2400-strong force set off to conquer Garmsir district from the Taliban. According to one veteran journalist, they planned a three-day [sic!] operation to route the insurgents and clear the highway. Following that, they were to go somewhere else to save the day.

In the event, the marines fought hard through the month of May in order to hold just five square km of land. Earlier this month, a journalist noted that the marines now hold some four and a half square miles of the district. (That equals about 11.5 square km, so the marines expanded their territory somewhat.)

For the math geeks out there, that means that 2400 US marines hold about 2800 acres of Garmsir while "scores" of Taliban are holding 16000 acres of Zhari district. Assuming that "scores" in this case means, say, 100 Taliban, then roughly speaking the Taliban are 150 times more effective than US marines.



Unknown said...

What a bunch of BS... A single United States Marine possesses more training and discipline than the entire Afghan Army. The Taliban can be liked to a primitive tribe that when faced with a MEB (4000 Marines, not 2400), they run. Locate, close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver. Think about that for a minute. Also, where are you getting your information from, as it seems like most of it is incoherently incorrect?

Semper Fidelis

Bill said...

Ah, what a difference a few years will make. That "postage stamp" parcel has grown since the Marines arrival. By 2010, 1,100 Marines and their Afghan partners held over 1,000 square kilometers in Garmsir District...