25 Nov 2006

General Crook’s Tactics in Afghanistan

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General George Crook (1828-1890)

Jim Dunnigan’s Strategy Page sees a parallel to today’s battle between the American Army and barbarian Taliban tribesmen in the Afghan wilderness with the US Army’s 19th century struggle to subdue hostile Indians. The author suggests that today’s Army adopt the tactics and diplomacy of General George Crook.

Crook relied primarily on diplomacy, making a reputation among the Indians for honesty in negotiations, while his diplomacy was backed-up by overwhelming superiority of armed force. Crook brought the enemy to bay by a system of alliances with rival tribes, and by exploiting his greater capacities for movement and supply. US cavalry could move and strike hostile villages in winter time, when the loss of shelter and supplies would prove a devastating blow to the normally elusive enemy.

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Dominique R. Poirier

I’m not military tactician and have no qualifications to seriously engage into a polemic on that ground, but this idea arouses the following points and questions, I think.

General Crook’s tactic may be interesting, albeit today’s circumstances may be different of what they were in America more than a century ago. As much as I have not been mistaken, Indian tribes, at that time, didn’t benefit any longer of logistic assistance provided by England since the end of the second War of Independence. Beside, American relative strategic insularity during the early XIXth century was an important factor making the task easier for George Crook. Things are somewhat different in Afghanistan in 2006.

In a previous article on this same blog, posted a few weeks ago, it was succinctly explained that a discreet and troublesome Pakistani help was provided to the Afghan insurgents. Since then, one may consider, at some point, that George Crook’s tactic would gain better chances to succeed if successful bilateral agreements between the United States and Pakistan could be made before any undertaking of that sort be carried on. In the negative, I think there is room for a hypothesis which would say that such diplomatic success with the Talibans might fall short of expectations on the long term.

Also, how great are the odds that this honesty in negotiations that characterized Indian tribes will fully applies to the Talibans today?



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