U.S. Trying to "Kill Its Way Out" of Afghan War?

Air strikes in Afghanistan are up 50 per cent and now Defense Secretary Gates has ordered a second aircraft carrier, the USS Lincoln, into the fight.

Two carriers operating off the coast of Pakistan means about 120 aircraft available for missions over Afghanistan. And that's not counting U.S. Air Force missions flown out of Bagram and Kandahar.

Although American commanders frequently say "we cannot kill our way out of this war," that appears to be exactly what the U.S. is doing - unleashing air strikes and special operations raids against the Taliban in an effort to force them to the bargaining table.

It's not likely to change the mind of the Taliban leadership, which remains safe in Pakistan, but the hope is local commanders in Afghanistan will either come over to the government side or agree to cease fires.

Killing the enemy is what the U.S. military does best. Everything else - reconstruction, improved governance, building up the Afghan Army and police, etc. - takes too long to meet the political deadlines which exist in Washington.

However, killing the enemy creates an "insurgent math" - for every fighter killed several members of his family join the fight to get revenge - and carries the risk of causing civilian casualtes.

Between that and the seemingly inexhaustible supply of fighters who come across the border from Pakistan, there will be more than enough work for a second aircraft carrier to do.

David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent. You can read more of his posts in World Watch here.
  • David Martin

    David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.