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How to Win a War: Special Focus on the War in Afghanistan as Seen Through the Eyes of Sun Tzu, Galula, and Mao Research Paper

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Updated: Dec 27th, 2021

Victory in war is not achieved by accident. It is a product of a well-selected and carefully implemented strategy. In this concept paper, the war in Afghanistan will be used as a case study in conveying the core message of this concept paper whose main theme is how to win a war. The paper is intended to inform rather than persuade or argue.

The Afghanistan war which is technically the war against terrorism has taken longer than the world expected. With the bombing of the World Trade Center and the discovery that Osama bin Laden was being protected by the Mullah of Afghanistan, it was expected that the United States of America which is technically the country that is leading the war against terror, would get into Afghanistan, capture bin Laden, and move out after kicking the Taliban out of power. This would have left the lives of the common Afghanistan people uninterrupted. But we have seen a different scenario wherein either the Taliban have adopted better fighting skills or the United States of America, as well as the NATO forces, have failed to come up with a winning strategy. Rashid points out that without a superior strategy, the war is lost (Rashid, p. 19).

Whichever way, the case needs to be dealt with decisively so that more lives are not lost. These include the lives of the soldiers involved in combat and the lives of the common Afghanistan people. Ricks has pointed out the fact that more than military concerns are at risk (Ricks, p. 45). It is for this reason that a better strategy needs to be employed. This is what this concept paper is all about. I will attempt to provide substantial information on how the war can be won with little damage to the Americans, the coalition forces, and the Afghanistan people and maximum impairment of the Taliban. The main tools that form part of this informative piece are cutting-edge technology, espionage, and sufficient forces together with superior combat skills appropriate for an amorphous enemy.

Great war theorists, as well as practical men who took part in live combat, have put across several strategies that can be adopted and applied in the Afghanistan war to end this protracted conflict that has claimed so many lives and consumed so many resources without a clear sign of victory shortly. As a way of winning, it is a fact that still stands out as the most important segment of this concept paper. But at the end of the day, every element that has been mentioned in the thesis has to be present to ensure that the factors are present in totality to allow for maximum interaction and the consequent realization of victory.

About the style of military management that needs to be applied for the realization of the end which is victory, the key elements needed are measurement, estimation of quantity, calculation, balancing of chances, and lastly victory. This is according to Sun Tzu (Sun Tzu, p. 34). From this great view of Sun Tzu, the war wagers are being told the significance of carrying out the required measurements that lead to the estimation of the strength of the opposing forces. Then the calculations that are associated with these elements are carefully carried out. This is followed by a careful inquiry based on the results obtained from the calculation to see whether it is possible to emerge victorious from the battlefield. This is what Sun Tzu means when he talks about the balancing of chances.

It is through the balancing of chances that most wise military commanders either retreat completely and stop to wage war or adopt another strategy or add more resources to get favorable calculated outcomes and then go back to the battlefield, assuming that the enemy will not have gotten scared and will still be there and ready to face combat. Favorable results at the balancing of chances mean that victory is possible. With a positive outcome in the balancing of chances, the wise commander normally springs once to the battlefield and decimates or clears up the enemy force. This is done as soon as possible since due to numerous dynamics, the situation can change and the enemy can become stronger leading to a surprise and humiliating defeat that can immobilize the army and dull the spirits of the forces.

How does this great Sun Tzu strategy apply to the case of Afghanistan? This is one of the most ideal cases of the Sun Tzu war strategy. American and NATO forces in Afghanistan need to assess the powers of the Taliban objectively. The side factors that always come up and change the deal include possible aid from some Middle Eastern and other countries, a case in which Iran has been named as a possible sponsor must be included. Also to be factored in is aid from other terrorist groups around the world. Another issue to look at while doing all these is to look at future dynamics as far as the Taliban are concerned and it has to be a realistic future of one to two months, the possible period within which if an assault is to be launched, it will be completed. After this has been done, the necessary calculations must be carried out also with utmost objectivity to avoid a case in which the coalition forces underestimate the Taliban potential only to meet a deadly force on the battlefront or apply more force than required, which can be compared to using a hammer to kill a fly. This can do more harm than good.

Leaving the above aside, the significant area is the responsibility of the American and the NATO commanders to balance their chances against those of the Taliban. For the case of the coalition forces, it is not about withdrawal even if the possibility is low after the balancing of chances. Crew and Tarzi think that in conditions where withdrawal is inevitable, an alternative strategy is necessary. It is about going back to the drawing board and adjusting the force characteristics to measure up to the field or battlefield requirements (Crew &Tarzi, p.34). One big reason as to why the Taliban can be and is a nuisance in that it is amorphous and the coalition forces sometimes find it hard to differentiate between a civilian and Taliban. This makes combat difficult for the coalition forces. With the completion of the balancing of chances, which can be called a comparison of power, the commanders can then move to the next stage.

The next stage is called victory. At this stage, the chances are played out in reality and there is combat with the enemy as Keegan explains in his work on war (Keegan p. 76). With favorable chances of victory gotten in the process of balancing, the coalition forces should be able to outmaneuver the Taliban, killing most of them, capture the rest for imprisonment and restore order to all of Afghanistan. As noted earlier, the realization of slim chances of victory will mean that the forces go to the drawing board without going to the battlefield. Just like in the past, it is not good to be defeated even after you have known that your chances of losing are high. This is something the American forces as well as the NATO forces cannot stomach. The inspiration of Taliban victory to the rest of the terror groups worldwide will be immense ad the humiliation of the United States will lead to embarrassment and loss of morale by the soldiers.

In line with the elements in the introduction, the next element is espionage. The successful army must be able to make use of careful people who can assist in picking vital information regarding the operations of the enemy. This is the only way to make your planning relevant as far as what you are going to meet on the ground is concerned (Tse Tung, pp. 27-30). The current war scenario does not employ human beings only in the process of espionage. The world has very sophisticated gadgets that are very effective in secret surveillance. But this does not make human beings useless. They become more useful for the case of Afghanistan given the difference in language and even the race of the people on whose ground the war is fought. Galula has emphasized the vital role of human beings in war even in the presence of advanced military technology (Galula, pp. 12-14).

It is easy to recognize an American working in Afghanistan given the difference in appearance and this makes it hard for both American and NATO soldiers as well as other personnel from these countries to perform the work of espionage as required by military undertakings. What therefore needs to be done is to identify cooperative Arab citizens, especially from Afghanistan or Pakistan, and win their loyalty. Then they should be trained on how to collect information and they should send back to the ground in their home country to do the job of gathering military intelligence. This is a winning strategy that if employed, will provide links to areas of preparation, weapons storage, and sources of support for the Taliban. Then the coalition forces can come in and handle the Taliban threat once and for all. This is not something to be left out as a side consideration given that if there is no genuine information on the activities of the Taliban, and given their lack of a commonplace of operation, more innocent civilian lives will be lost due to striking of wrong targets.

Technology has been mentioned as a great part of the winning strategy and it is also a crucial part of the concept paper. We live in a modernized world whereby the weaponry that is utilized is advanced and the rate at which information can be relayed among the men and women in combat and beyond is amazingly high. Upon the acquisition of adequate reliable data on the terrain and weaponry of the enemy forces (Taliban), it will be necessary for the coalition forces to identify the best military technology to employ to get hold of victory as quickly as possible. Given that not all the citizens of Afghanistan are in favor of the Taliban, it is hard for them to store their weapons in the open. It is also hard for them to own huge stocks of weapons since they are not part of any government. All they get are hand-out weapons from rogue states as well as the ones they get through the resources they raise from dirty deals like drugs. This, therefore, means that the coalition forces are at an advantage since they have the legitimacy to use the most appropriate military technology to win. This is what Kilcullen refers to when he talks about having the nod to wage war (Kilcullen, p. 56).

The last two areas of the paper are about the numbers of manpower as well as skills. The manpower issue is important. It has been supported by several modern-day war strategists and commanders and this led to President Obama’s decision to send thirty thousand more troops to Afghanistan with an additional five to seven thousand expected to be given by the European partners in this venture. The advantage that sufficient troop numbers bring is the ability to cover as much ground as possible given the fact that the Taliban are widely spread and hard to single out. Superior combat skills are perhaps the most important in this venture (Sinno, p. 16). The Afghanistan terrain is different and the nature of the enemy is unconventional. It is not the traditional enemy who was in the open and there was no requirement for discrimination when attacking. The Taliban are fluid and amorphous and can easily hide within the civilian quarters and then launch attacks on the coalition forces. This is why the troops in combat will need special skills to carefully track down and kill or arrest the members of the Taliban who may be within or without the civilian quarters. Giustozzi is very categorical about special skills for the forces depending on the nature of engagement (Giustozzi, p. 34).

In conclusion, winning a war takes fluidity, method, measurement, and preparedness. As shown by this case study, the Taliban is an unconventional enemy. The method is important and measurement, estimation of quantity, calculation, estimation of balance, and victory can only follow one another to the end of care is taken. Indeed if the war in Afghanistan has to be won within the shortest time possible with little damage to the Americans, the coalition forces, and the Afghanistan people and maximum impairment of the Taliban, cutting edge technology, espionage, and sufficient forces together with superior combat skills appropriate for an amorphous enemy must be employed.

Works Cited

  1. Crews, Robert & Tarzi, Amin. The Taliban and the Crisis of Afghanistan. New York: Harvard University Press, 2009.Print.
  2. Galula, David. Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice.St.Petersburg:.Hailer Publishing, 2005.Print.
  3. Giustozzi, Antonio. (ed.). Decoding the New Taliban: Insights from the Afghan Field. Columbia University Press.2009.Print.
  4. Keegan, John.The Second World War (illustrated ed.). New York: Penguin, 1990.Print.
  5. Kilcullen, David. The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One. New York: Oxford University Press.2009.Print.
  6. Rashid, Ahmed. Descent into Chaos: The U.S. and the Disaster in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia. New York: Penguin Press, 2009.Print.
  7. Ricks, Thomas. The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008.New York: Penguin Press, 2009.Print.
  8. Sinno, Abdulkader. Organizations at War in Afghanistan and Beyond. New York. Cornell University Press, 2008.Print.
  9. Tse Tung, Kau Michael & Leung, John. The Writings of Mao Zedong, 1949-1976: 1949-1955.New York: M.E.Sharpe, 1986.Print.
  10. Tzu, Su. The Art of War. Project Gutenberg.1910.Print.
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