Week 1: Discussion of the raids in Afghanistan and Pakistan
Tactics versus operational level versus strategyThese journalistic articles describe the war on a tactical level, at least one must have had authorization at a high level to interview operators in the Bin Laden assassination team.Gen. McCrystal's special forces operational concept is to step up the tempo of raids, several per night, in order to disrupt the enemy and kill or capture leaders faster than they can be recruited and trained.
The primary tactic is to use local intelligence (presumably delivered in part by Pakistani agencies) for night helicopter raids by small units of special (covert forces).
Helicopter raids, especially those at night, use surprise and the US technological advantages and throw the enemy on the defensive -- unless US forces run into ambushes or suffer accidental losses. These raids are difficult to coordinate and conduct safely, but can rely on well trained troops.
This small force has to backed by much larger forces for intelligence, transport, maintainence and planning.
Strategy: primarily the choice between Counter Terrorism and Counter insurgencyCT attacks terrorist organizations, cells, training camps and individuals, in part trying to turn AQ in this case onto the defensive. Denying them sanctuary, preventing open movement or communications, and sowing distrust among them are among the goals. Gen. McCrystal is closely associated with the CT strike approach.
COIN is a longer term strategy of herding and protecting the civilian population into armed villages or concentration camps -- to secure them and separate them from insturgents (sometimes called guerrillas, from the Napoleonic campaign in Iberia).
General Petraus is closely associated with COIN strategy in the Iraq war (a country much more urbanized, nationalized and developed, and with flatter terrain and little cover, comapred to Afghnistan).
Generally, while Finding, Fixing and Finishing enemy is difficult enough, COIN strategy requires an even more difficult task of nation building: transport & power infrastructure, government, armed forces and police all have to be developed and stabilized.
The cost of both is heavy, and the money spent locally in a very poor country, inflates the economy while spreading corruption. Sustainable development can be elusive.