The three fallacies that have driven the war in Afghanistan

Every military counter-insurgency strategy hits up against the probability that it will, in time, create more enemies than it kills. So you blow up a suspected Taliban site and kill two of their commanders – but you also kill 98 women and children, whose families are from that day determined to kill your men and drive them out of their country. Those aren't hypothetical numbers. They come from Lt. Col. David Kilcullen, who was General Petraeus' counter-insurgency advisor in Iraq. He says that US aerial attacks on the Afghan-Pakistan border have killed 14 al-Qa'ida leaders, at the expense of more than 700 civilian lives. He says: "That's a hit rate of 2 per cent on 98 per cent collateral. It's not moral." It explains the apparent paradox that broke the US in Vietnam: the more "bad guys" you kill, the more you have to kill.

There is an even bigger danger than this. General Petraeus's strategy is to drive the Taliban out of Afghanistan. When he succeeds, they run to Pakistan – where the nuclear bombs are.

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