US President Barack Obama announced yesterday that he would pull out 10,000 forces from Afghanistan at the end of this year. And another 33,000 troops would be brought home by the summer of next year. It is estimated that by December 31, 2014 the remaining 70,000 US troops would be completely withdrawn after a 10-year anti-terrorism war which has left 1,500 Americans killed in action. The president mapped a course of action that American mission would change from combat to support. He stressed that Afghan people would have to be responsible for the security of their own when the transition process is completed by 2014.
I am really interested in knowing more about what the president meant about shifting American mission from combat to support. If we define combat as direct confrontation between two belligerents, and support as any activities taken to help win the combat, is it safe for us to say support is a part of combat activities, or support is combat? How come I got a feeling that the president was saying support is not combat.
The Story of English written by Robert McCrum, William Cran, and Robert MacNeil, sees an interesting usage of words in Vietnam War, an unpopular American war she lost some forty years ago. Let me quote the paragraph below:
The war, and the opposition to it, created a sizable new vocabulary and, because it was a televised war, many new words moved rapidly into the language: defoliate, napalm, firefight, friendly fire, search-and-destroy mission, and, of course, the famous domino theory, the belief that if Vietnam went Communist, the rest of South-East Asia would fall to Communism too, like a row of dominoes. Vietnam also threw up a kind of language that reflected official doubts about America’s involvement, and, once involved, official anxiety to prevent a 'dirty war' in the best possible light. In 1965 the conflict was pronounced not to have 'worsened' but to have escalated. The elimination of armed resistance in the thousands of small South Vietnamese villages infiltrated by the Vietcong was called pacification. Even the dead were renamed and became inoperative combat personnel. Vietnam was a verbal as well as military minefield. "You always write it's bombing, bombing, bombing," Colonel David H. E. Ofgor, air attaché at the US Embassy in Phnom Penn, complained to reporters. "It’s not bombing. It’s air support." (pp. 26-27)
So it is not combat in Afghanistan, it is support in the future.
Picture this: A US Air Force C-130 is taking heavy anti-aircraft fire from the ground by the hostile Taliban forces while this aircraft is on a supply sortie to drop weapons and supplies to support friendly Afghan forces. This C-130, being an unarmed tactical transport powerless to defend itself, has no choice but to temporarily leave the mission after calling for support. The operation is immediately resumed only after the ground fire is eliminated by an F-16 nearby responding the call.
Is it a combat mission, support mission, or combat support mission?