Can the US actually invade Afghanistan?

Ok, let’s try this scenario. We find definite proof that Osama Bin Laden is behind the attacks and that he is still in Afghanistan. We ask the Taliban to turn him over, they don’t. What happens then? We can’t move a full-scale invasion force into Afghanistan, it’s just too isolated and surrounded mostly by countries that are generally hostile to the United States. We could, of course, launch missile strikes, but it would be hard to inflict serious damage on a country which largely lacks a centralized government and economy, plus it will probably be hard to locate Bin Laden now, so it’s unlikely that we’d be able to kill him. So, in the above scenario, what actions could the US take?

Offer a reward.
Big money for whoever turns him in or tells his location.

I have to say that I have serious doubts about our ability to track down Bin Laden even if we did invade Afghanistan. We can’t track down Eric Rudolph (the Olympic Park bomber), and he lives here.

Afghanistan is a mighty big place, and there are an awful lot of people there who are sympathetic to Bin Laden. Seems to me he could melt into the background pretty easily. (Unless you contemplate rounding up every single Afghani which, of course, ain’t gonna happen.)

And vanilla, I’m pretty sure there is already a big price on Bin Laden’s head. Hasn’t done any good.

At this point, I would imagine the Taliban would be shitting their pants in fear of what we would do if they refused to turn the guy over.

Don’t forget that the Russians don’t like Afghanistan much. It was their Vietnam.

Also, there seems to be a rebel force in Afghanistan, judging from the bombings of Kabul last night. I would guess that this force is already being supplied by either the Russians or the US.

I get the feeling that not too many countries like the Taliban (with the exception of the Arab countries???)

But, let’s wait until we get a clearer idea of responsibility for these actions. It may be another group entirely. We will be able to find out a lot of information with the retrieval of the cockpit voice recorders, I would guess.

There’s been a $5 million price on his head since June 1999.

5 million?
How come it hasn’t helped?
No one sympathetic to him can be bought off?

I almost hope bin Laden wasn’t responsible, because Afghanistan could be a bear :frowning: .

Logistically it’s a nightmare. The only immediately available staging area is the Indian Ocean and even then you have to traverse “neutral” air space to get there. The various nations bordering Afghanistan, even including supposed U.S. ally Pakistan, are going to be reluctant to tolerate a large U.S. presense on their soil. Moreover, air and missile attacks in of themselves will likely accomplish next to nothing - There is very little infrastructure to hit in Afghanistan.

If it does prove to be Osama bin Laden, then the best outcome would be for the U.S. to mount enough evidence to persuade the Taliban to expel him. But this is highly unlikely. Not only for ideological reasons, but also because if the news stories from yesterday are true, it’s quite possible the Taliban are in debt to bin Laden for assainating Ahmed Shah Massoud, the Taliban’s most formidable internal foe. Plus bin Laden has his own military establishment in the country.

The next best outcome would be a successful commando raid. I’m guessing this is the most likely route. But given bin Laden’s mobility and his tight security, this will be a tough one to pull off. The possibility of a fuck up might be pretty damn high.

After that we have the possibility that the U.S. would gather enough evidence and twist enough arms to get some neighbor ( Pakistan most likely and by far the most preferable for logistic reasons ) to put up with a U.S. assault from their country. Even then we’re talking about the possibility of an open-ended nasty guerilla war in very rugged terrain.

Gazoo: Well remember, Russia doesn’t share a border with Afghanistan any longer. It doesn’t even come close. And Uzbekistan and Tajikistan don’t have tons of muscle to throw around.

There is an indigenous rebel movement ( albeit one drawn mainly from minority groups ). But it won’t be of much help - It’s small, badly outgunned, and is clinging by its fingertips to a northern enclave that amounts to barely 5% of Afghanistan. And if what I mentioned above is true and Ahmed Shah Massoud is truly dead, then they just lost by far their most charismatic and effective leader. Worse, according to most reports he was the glue holding that group of rebels together ( it is a disparate, fractious confederacy ). Without him, they may soon disintegrate. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the attack on Kabul last night was a panic-stricken spoiler attack seeking to forestall an expected Taliban offensive in the wake of this presumed loss.

All in all, an effective attack of some sort on Afghanistan or bin Laden, isn’t impossible. Nothing is impossible. But it sure ain’t easy.

  • Tamerlane

vanilla: Osama bin Laden has his own millions, his followers are fanatics, and his security is impeccable. One of the problems with dealing with him is that he is meticulous about his security and secrecy. To my understanding intelligence operations have had a great deal of difficulty trying to penetrate the inner layers of his organization. If he actually pulled off this WTC tragedy, despite being a major intelligence priority since 1998, this just shows how good he is at this.

  • Tamerlane

vanilla wrote:

Well, one reason is that the US bungled the PR on this one – they had thousands of matchbooks printed up for distribution in Pakistan announcing the reward as being only $500,000.

But see, that assumes that the Taliban even have it within their power to “turn him over.” Could we “turn over” Eric Rudolph if another country wanted him? We can’t even find the guy. How do we know that the Taliban even know where Bin Laden is? Is there any evidence that they are actually (and actively) harboring him or protecting him? Or is Bin Laden simply in Afghanistan without government sponsorship?

Even if the Taliban wanted to “turn the guy over,” could they do so? (Given Bin Ladin’s elusiveness, money and firepower?)

I would guess the opposite. I don’t think the cockpit voice recorders are going to reveal anything useful. They will confirm a hijacking and they will (probably) confirm the deaths of the pilots but beyond that I don’t think they’ll tell us anything. This was a well organized attack and I seriously doubt these guys started spouting off about who they were working for. If anything, they might even try some disinformation and claim to have been working for some totally unrelated group that they don’t like.

Probably not directly. However, there is gonna be a TON of pressure on whoever harbors this guy to turn him over. Even countries generally hostile to the US can’t really stand behind that guy. They all know America is filled with some righteous wrath right now and it’d be best to stand out of the way.

My guess is Afghanistan might declare bin Laden persona non grata and ask him to leave just to get him out of their hair (err…turban). That’s probably the most they can manage even if they have the balls for that much. If bin Laden refused to leave at that point I expect Afghanistan will say, “Hey, we tried.” and leave it at that.

Given that a full-blown military response in Afghanistan is not likely for the US I expect we’ll start tossing cruise missiles at anything that looks interesting and remotley related to bin Laden as well as probably arming the shit out of the rebels fighting the Taliban. If that doesn’t motivate the Taliban to do something more then they can expect interesting lives for the next few years.

Say, how about some pressure on our ally Saudi Arabia to freeze the bastard’s assets? (Not as an only step, but as one of many actions to be taken.) Can we sue the guy under Saudi law, I wonder? Freezing his assets might make it more difficult for him to operate, at least.

If these facts are true–and I fear they are–what do we do except sit here and take it?

Are we limited to our usual bomb and bomb strategy, with no guarantees of success?

As for the Taliban, we have one advantage, NOBODY likes them. I think they make their neighbors nervous.

It’s very simple.

Tell the Taliban they have 72 hours to produce Mr. Bin laden, dead or alive, or meet Mr. Nukie!

These are desperate times, they call for strong action.

I can’t see Pakistan helping us with a war in Afghanistan. Pakistan has been in bed with Afghan Islamic militants since the '80s, and at this point I’m guessing Musharraf likes them better than he likes us.

Iran we can forget about, of course.

What about Tajikistan and Uzbekistan? I don’t know anything about them. Could they be persuaded to cooperate?

If we do try to invade Afghanistan from the north, Russia is the most important major power to have on our side, as anything we would ship to Uzbekistan or Tajikistan would probably have to come across the Caspian Sea from Russia. (God, I wish we hadn’t let relations with Russia deteriorate so badly). But the Russians do have incentive to cooperate with us, since they have been suffering from Islamic terrorism themselves and would be just as happy as the Americans to see bin Laden dead.

Jeez, I hope it doesn’t come to fighting a war in Afghanistan.

And no, I do not support nuclear threats. Firstly, we are dealing with fanatics here who will gladly sacrifice every woman and child in Kabul, and their own lives as well, to ensure their place in heaven. Secondly, a major nuclear strike would throw fallout over Pakistan and kill half the country. Rather than suffer that, Musharraf might well order a nuclear counter-strike. Thirdly, let’s not start our war against terrorism with an act of terrorism against innocent civilians!

Well, my thinking is that the hijackers will be talking - may be able to do something with voice recognition or at least recognize an accent or a language. Next, if it is religious, and suicide bombers probably are, they will be praying at the end, I would guess. They may also yell out "God save (put cause’s name here) at the end. There may have also been cell phone usage or some other kind of communication. This person or persons would have had to have been in the cockpit for some time.

Not that strong! Besides being overkill & immoral (killing innocents), it would vilify the U.S. in the eyes of the rest of the world, reduce our global economic network, probably start up a new global arms race, and undo the “security” of decades of nuclear detente. (“Hey, those Americans are crazy enough to actually use nukes again…we better back off in our relations and prepare for the worst.”) IMHO anyway.
ITR champion - I agree. I think last time we took shots at O.b.L with millions of dollars worth of Tomahawk missiles (and barely did anything) showed how difficult it would be.

Well, logistics aside, the US appears to have delivered a powerful message to the Taliban via Pakistani intermediaries. Although the meeting was characterized as “inconclusive” (diplo-speak for: it didn’t go anywhere), the Taliban now appears to be more concerned about their lives than ever before. After the talk, they used CNN to distance themselves from all terrorism, and to tell the world that killing them would be unwise and counterproductive. CNN characterized it as an “overstatement.” My hunch is they were given one last chance.

Art (Wally Shaw, anyway) imitates life.

You fell victim to one of the classic blunders, the most famous of which is “Never get involved in a land war in Asia”,
If Bin Laden was Sicillian we’d really be screwed.

It’s quickly boiling down to two primary options. The Nuclear solution, or a cloak and dagger, systematic elimination of all known or suspected terrorists.