Warning: the following writeup may contain one or more of the following:
...if this content disturbs or offends you, consider yourself warned forthwith.
- Declared positions or biases
- References to the U.S.-led coalition vs. Taliban conflict
The United States and its allies may find themselves faced with a military and political decision. According to news sources such as CNN and Reuters, thousands of 'volunteers' are gathering inside Pakistan before setting off to, as they declare, join the Taliban in defending Afghanistan. Pictures of these volunteers show them carrying assault weapons and RPGs (at the least). The reaction is likened to the response seen when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.
While it is unlikely these volunteers will be able to do any harm to Coalition air forces, this is a trend that should be stopped as soon as possible, lest it evolve into a general call to engage Americans and Coalition forces anywhere. With this in mind, I am firmly of the opinion that such armed groups, once clearly across the border into Afghanistan, must be considered military/paramilitary forces, and thus legitimate targets for Coalition air and ground forces.
It is clear that the intent of these volunteers is to bring armed resistance against the U.S. and its allies, inside a declared theater of battle. If this is the case, they should be prepared to be treated as opponents. While they should be treated as protected while outside Afghanistan, these groups should be actively (and massively) targeted upon deep intrusion (perhaps twenty-five miles in) when it is clear that they are inside the Afghan borders and intend to continue on.
While they will present a difficult target to destroy, this should not be the intention. They should be met with sufficient force to impress upon them the capabilities and intentions of the opponent they have set out to combat. Forces and actions should be chosen with an eye for maximum 'shock value.' Some examples of taskings for this might include the following.
B-52H saturation bombing. While it would be difficult to actually hit a column that is on the move unless the inbound strikes can be updated by forward observers, the sheer frightening power of a B-52 strike has been found to have demoralized and disrupted even the most determined of U.S. foes, the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam war and the Iraqi armed forces during the Gulf War. Note that this should not be confused with effectiveness in the destructive sense; rather, their shock value against untried and/or loosely organized troops was significant.
Helicopter Gunships. While helicopters are at a disadvantage, being reachable with small arms and MANPADS, the amount of destruction that a group of Apaches or Cobras can dish out is impressive as well, especially if loaded specifically with anti-personnel weapons (unguided rockets, cannon, etc.)
Cluster bombs. Designed specifically for this purpose, cluster bombs would be devastating if they can be accurately targeted. This would require a FAC, no doubt; however, that shouldn't present a large difficulty.
While this does in fact sound 'bloodthirsty,' it should be remembered that the ultimate goals are twofold. First, it would hope to deter additional militants from attempting to join the conflict in Afgahnistan, thus reducing the threat to American forces as well as reducing the number of enemy the U.S. would be forced to face and kill. Second, it would serve notice that the U.S. does, in fact, consider the conflict bounded; the message should be sent that it is specifically the entry into Afghanistan with intent to support anti-U.S. forces is the key factor. Had the militants not crossed the border, they would be safe from U.S. and allied action. Crossing the border, however, is equated with joining the Taliban, and the price of that decision must be made clear.
Of course, what the hell do I know?
A response to AnotherMartini: Hurray! An arguer! I live for those. :-) In any case, you make a quite cogent point; I would reply with the following. First of all, while I agree heartily with your estimation of the root cause of such nihilistic volunteerism, I must nevertheless point out that our two proposed responses are not mutually exclusive. Moreover, your response of education and uplift, which I endorse, is a long-term, strategic solution. The masses crossing the border now are a tactical problem. Regardless of how one copes with the causes of such behavior, the behavior itself must be addressed.
Second, be careful on how you apply your motivational model. Most of the original crop of mujahedin who fought the Soviets were not a poor populace; they were the hastily exported riffraff of most of the Islamic nations in the area. Criminal and insurgents were stuffed onto transport for Afghanistan to fight. While the populace was manipulated by them, most of the seriously fanatical combatants were of this type.
Finally, your last point is most definitely correct, but not really relevant here. I haven't proposed blindly attacking the populace of Afghanistan or the area; I've proposed taking measured action against an armed group who seem most concerned that everyone know what they are doing (supporting the Taliban and fighting the U.S. and allies) and why. They have themselves, as it were, stepped up to the plate; had they not done so, they would have remained 'general populace' - and been safe (in my proposal) from U.S./coalition military action.