by SWJ Editors
Contested Nation Building
The Challenge of Countering Insurgency in Afghanistan in 2007
by Colonel John Frewen, Small Wars Journal
In a military sense, 2007 was the coalition's year in Afghanistan. The coalition defeated the Taliban tactically at every turn, forcing them to resort to indiscriminate attacks with explosives and suicide bombers — tactics which risk alienating the local population. The Taliban's much-vaunted 'Spring offensive' failed to materialise and they suffered substantial losses, including the death of key leaders such as Mullah Dadullah by coalition actions. They lost freedom of action in former sanctuaries such as the Upper Garesh and Chora valleys, and had Musa Qala — a town the Taliban vowed they would never surrender — seized from them as the 2007 fighting season drew to a close. While international media reports have played up the headline-grabbing "coalition's deadliest year", only one side of the ledger has been considered. The increase in coalition fatalities from 191 in 2006 to 232 in 2007 also points to a heightened engagement with the enemy that has produced good results. Throughout last year the Taliban saw support from sanctuaries in Pakistan erode, and a better-trained and more capable Afghan Army played a leading role in the assault on Musa Qala. By military standards 2007 was an awful year for the Taliban. Yet their resolve and influence persists, and more must be done through non-military means to achieve peace for Afghanistan.
Colonel John Frewen is a career infantryman who has served in 1 RAR, 2 RAR and the School of Infantry. In 2003, as CO 2 RAR, he led the initial regional military intervention force to re-establish law and order in the Solomon Islands. Other operational service includes Rwanda and, in 2007, Afghanistan. In 2006 he was the Military Assistant to the Chief of Army. He has been posted with the armies of New Zealand and the United States and holds a Masters of Defence Studies from UNSW. Colonel Frewen is currently the Director Military Strategic Commitments in the Australian Defence Headquarters.
This article was originally published in the Australian Army Journal and is posted here with permission of the author.