by SWJ Editors
Avoiding Dien Bien Phu
by Captain Patrick McKinney
On 19 December 1946, armed members of the Viet Minh, a communist Vietnamese resistance group, launched countrywide attacks on French garrisons in Indochina. After more than a year and a half of delicate negotiations, limited conflicts, and the French failure to legitimize their authority, Ho Chi Minh, the Viet Minh's leader, and General Vo Nguyen Giap, the leader of its armed forces, launched a war that would continue for another eight years until a final French defeat in 1954. More than 300,000 Viet Minh, more than 150,000 Vietnamese citizens, and more than 80,000 French soldiers were killed during the conflict. The French fought the First Indochina War as Allied forces had fought in World War II, focused on controlling terrain and killing the enemy. The Viet Minh fought a different war, focused on winning the Vietnamese people while bleeding the French forces until their withdrawal or until a final guerilla offensive.
In October 2001, American Soldiers and intelligence officers began an offensive in Afghanistan against the ruling Taliban regime and its terrorist allies, al Qaeda. Using indigenous allies, American forces were able to drive the Taliban and al Qaeda from power and into hiding in the mountainous border region with Pakistan. After this initial defeat, the Taliban regrouped and gradually begin a strategy similar to the Viet Minh, focused on the rural and mountainous villages of Afghanistan. Though American strategy was broader in scope, the military strategy remained largely enemy focused, hoping to kill or capture High Value Targets and destroy Taliban, terrorists, and insurgents when engaged. American forces constructed bases throughout the countryside to serve as staging areas for raids, interdictions, and to prevent infiltration. Some units on the ground did conduct population focused counterinsurgency, but as a whole, the military conducted an enemy focused approach.