October 30, 2006Foreign Affairs

The reasons for being helicoptergunship-happy

Airstrikes, precision weapons, missiles…when the infantry could have done it

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

Let’s say you have intelligence (okay, make that evidence) that a madrassa in a village in Pakistan’s tribal areas is acting as a training camp churning out terrorists. You are also very likely to know the number of terrorists and other people living in and around the madrassa. That number is small, about a a hundred. If the said madrassa is in your own territory how would you take it out? An infantry battalion is well-suited for the job, with some special forces to prepare the target and supporting units like light artillery or the odd helicopter gunship to pursue those escaping from the scene.

Employing helicopter gunships and precision weapons, as Pakistan has just done, is not what you would normally do.

You would use airstrikes if the target lies in territory you do not control: plausible, considering that the Pakistan army is not in effective control of the tribal areas. It might also suggest that American forces across the border in Afghanistan carried out the attack.

You would also use airstrikes if you wanted to tell the world that you are, still, fighting Taliban and al-Qaeda on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

So which one was it?

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