Canada shifts to guerrilla war against Taliban

Amidst all the discussion of Afghanistan, and our military's ability to defeat them in pitched, conventional battles, this author wondered why the Taliban had ever attempted to wage a pitched battle a la Operation Medusa in the first place. The Afghans being noted guerrilla fighters, it seemed that a switch to 'conventional' tactics last fall might have actually been a tactic of 'unconventional' warfare. It appears that, having attempted conventional combat and having lost, the ever-adaptive Afghan fighters are again switching tactics.

Canadian Forces have been jolted in recent months by a dramatic shift in the Afghanistan conflict that has seen the Taliban melt into the civilian population and spread over a much wider area, a top officer said yesterday.

It has required a rapid "sea change" in tactics that used to be unheard of in the Forces, said Colonel Mike Cessford, second in command of the Canadian mission here.

Last year, troops fought largely in a 20-square-kilometre area west of Kandahar city, although Canada has responsibility for all Kandahar province. The combat was a conventional clash with large numbers of insurgents.

Now, Taliban fighters have dispersed among civilians and into a "multiplicity" of different districts, he said in a frank assessment of the operation.

The "battle space," as the military calls it, has broadened strikingly.

"This mission is evolving dynamically and dramatically," Col. Cessford said.

"We trained hard for a mission that we did not execute? Here, you change on a dime, and you have to change on a dime."...The transformation of the conflict into a guerrilla war where combatants are often one with the civilians, however, has meant a major curb on Canadian firepower, even after several tanks were flown to their aid.

Our recently renewed tank capability made sense given the type of warfare our troops engaged in. What does this change in tactics do to the utility of our main battle tanks?