Is there an actual military challenge posed by terrorist targets?

In my mind I see the difficulties on the war on “terror”, or to be more specific: operations against the taliban, mostly in the intelligence front. Where is group A? Who is supporting them? Who are group B’s leaders and where can they be attacked with minimal civilian casualties?

But the actual combat engagements of these targets I can’t see as being in much of a way challenging to us. Correct me if I’m wrong but aren’t the vast majority of our enemies in this conflict running around in caves, with little more than rags on, and with weaponry that would be considered outdated 3 decades ago? They don’t have helicopter gunships, or Satellite mapping, or smart bombs, or attack drones, or truly secure lines of communication, or the latest in training and infantry weaponry like we do, correct?

It’s kind of like the medieval equivalent of knights in shining armor running down some peasants armed with their wive’s crockery. Or am I wrong? Is there an actual military challenge posed by them? Or are the difficulties mostly in finding and separating hostile targets from the general civs around them?

This sort of thing, where a well armed modern army goes to war against a foe thats massivly out-gunned and usually out-organized and out-trained as well, has become common enough that it has its own term.

But I’d say your right, the only exception being that much of the fighting against the Taliban and Iraqi terrorist groups is done by Afghan and Iraqi proxies that don’t necessarily have the same massive advantage Western armies do.

Caves are a remarkably effective countermeasure to helicopters, satellites, smart bombs, and attack drones.

(emphasis added)

I would just like to point out that yes, we do have helicopters, satellite images, smart bombs, drones, secure lines of communication, ect. and those can help in identifying where group A is and who is supporting them.

However, we seemingly lack the free (open-source) intelligence: knowing and understanding the culture of the people you’re fighting, why they are fighting, why they seemingly take “extreme” stances on an array of ideas, and all the economic, political, and social reasons of what makes this so. This would answer not who or where group A is, but why is there a group A; and why are people supporting them. Which could lead to drying up group A as effectively as bullets can.

While I don’t know for sure, it seems the CIA/Military value the intelligence you listed and don’t bother with the free stuff, or value it over the free stuff, or just fail to incorporate it with the classic intelligence. I think that’s backwards and can be extremely costly in waging wars of, not just this type, but really of any type.

Ask someone who’s been in uniform in Iraq or Afghanistan about the military challenge of fighting insurgents or terrorists. The issue isn’t going head to head, it’s that the nature of guerrilla warfare is that the bad guys won’t fight head to head. Instead, the military challenge is finding them in the first place while avoiding IEDs.

Terrorism presents no military challenge whatsoever. It’s impossible to defeat an abstract noun with military force. Terrorism is something you deal with via intelligence service/police action and diplomacy/conflict resolution. But if you do it that way you don’t have an excuse to spend endless billions funding the US war industry to go and invade other countries, creating inevitable insurgencies that we can’t afford to lose to or the terrorists win, decades-long conflicts, much profit, much opportunity to carry out various foreign policy objectives under the guise of defeating terrorism. Taking one percent of the defence budget and giving the money to the FBI, which would more than double the FBI’s entire budget, would be a far more effective method of keeping us safe than bombing furriners, something that just might create future terrorists.

Dick has it. The problem posed by the phenomenon of terrorism is fundamentally not susceptible of a military solution. The most that you can hope to achieve through military means - and this only in some circumstances - is some degree of containment while you develop effective strategies to address the problem.

Actually the best you can do with military action, is make the problem worse. Blow up villages and kill women and kids, and you have created a larger army of US haters.
If someone fired off a drone that killed my family, he would create a lot of new enemies.

To a man with a hammer in his hand, every problem looks like it can be solved with a nail. To a country with the world’s largest military budget (IIRC more than the next 16 countries combined), every problem looks like a military one. The military is both the US’s greatest strength and greatest weakness.

The same budget as the rest of the world put together.

To add to what’s been said already, the difficulty with almost all modern military offensives, not just asymmetrical ones, lies mostly in finding and identifying hostile targets and in limiting collateral damage. Weaponry is now so powerful and so accurate that hitting and/or destroying a given thing can be accomplished reliably; hitting and destroying the correct thing and not something else will always present a challenge. Even against a modern enemy our weapons would destroy a fortified command post assuming we could identify it and survive long enough to deliver the ordnance. Picking it out of radio chatter and seeing through visual and thermal concealment, and not falling for decoys, would be the problem.

And defensively, yes, the asymmetrical enemies can’t fight back with the same kind of sophistication, so the advanced military isn’t exposed to the same kind of threats in return. So it’s less of a challenge in that sense.

But modern warfare’s greatest offensive challenge in any conflict is identifying and classifying targets and avoiding overkill (if we truly didn’t care about “collateral damage” we could just nuke everything. Of course that’s a horrible solution, but rejecting it proves that we do in fact care about collateral damage).

The US seems to think that sending in military forces to countries that harbor terrorist groups is the way to go. Haven’t we LEARNED anything from Afghanistan?
I would argue that massive military intervention is a huge mistake. Of course, the US can defeat these groups in a one-on-one battle-but that is NOT the way these groups operate. Take Somalia (which is now the arena for a battle between Afican Union peacekeepers and the Al Shahab terrorists: the “peacekeepers” will eventually get tired and leave-because there is an unlimited supply of unemployed young men with guns. Suppose the islamists win, and Somalia becomes a terrorist state? The appropriate thing to do is to tell whoever emerges as the head of government, that any terrorism traced to them will be met with devastating force-like a few thousand cluster bombs…thats all.
And DON’T allow people from these places to come to the US…ever.