Abstract

The United States army defeated the Taliban in Afghanistan and freed the country in 2001. Since then, the U.S has made sustained efforts to bring stability and democracy to the war-torn nation. Owing to the futility of the efforts that were made in the last 11 years, Afghanistan’s internal conflicts, and some U.S inaction in time of need, the decision to provide aerial surveillance to the troops, which were stationed in Afghanistan, was taken. This paper aims to summarize the beneficial outcomes of the aerial surveillance that was implemented by the United States in Afghanistan. Beginning from the question why the surveillance was considered necessary, in the first place, this paper shall touch upon the technology employed in the surveillance operation and conclude how the operation made a positive difference to the rehabilitation efforts that were headed by the U.S. The aim of this paper is to put all the salient points about the situation in Afghanistan together, collate them, and subsequently draw pertinent conclusions, which will appreciate the positive outcomes of aerial surveillance in the U.S endeavor in Afghanistan. In addition, the paper will mention the aspects that can be improved.

The Beginning of the Post-Taliban Area

U.S troops defeated the fundamentalist Islamist organization, the Taliban, in 2001, in the Asian country, Afghanistan, and the members of the radical organization went into hiding. With that, the Afghan people were ushered into a new age of neo-liberalism, where people could go wherever they wanted and listen to music. The girls could go to school and receive an education, which was something unthinkable during the rule of the Taliban. Soon, the U.S, along with the troops from other countries, spearheaded a campaign to make Afghanistan a democratic country.  Elections for a President were held with the voting process being under vigilance of the foreign troops, and people were encouraged to break new frontiers in all fields.  A new President was elected, and the democratic house of representatives was created.  Afghan lads were trained and recruited for the police and the army. Sports and other activities become available for the citizens. Women were allowed to work and take an active part in public life, namely, administration, healthcare, and social sciences. The dark ages in the history of Afghanistan presumably finished.

Factors that Caused New Problems in Afghanistan

Soon, this thought proved to be an illusion. Any efforts to bring stability to the country were thwarted by a number of factors. Firstly, Afghanistan’s own fractious politics, the economy, and state and civil society infrastructure were in a shambles. Secondly, the U.S’s poor judgment in not deploying enough troops and providing sufficient foreign aid to the nation and Pakistan’s lackadaisical attitude in checking the insurgency of militants who had taken refuge in Pashtun tribal areas along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border also had an effect. The biggest threat facing the U.S efforts in the nation that became unchecked was the Taliban militants who operated from the rural areas on the Afghanistan border. These insurgents attacked the cities daily, putting bombs in civilian places, army training camps, administrative buildings, and voting booths, taking lives of  hundreds of soldiers, civilians, and administrative officials. Afghans were scared to leave their homes. For them, the dark ages returned again. Their hard-won freedom and sovereignty was in jeopardy of being snatched from them again.

Problems and Measures that Were Taken to Address Them

The U.S was spearheading the efforts for rehabilitation of Afghanistan. However, the comeback of the Taliban militants was absolutely unexpected for the U.S. Its minimalistic approach towards deploying enough troops and providing sufficient ammunition was the first problem to be corrected. Apart from that, the troops had no idea of how to check the influx of Taliban extremists, which allowed the radicals to achieve a significant presence in the cities and villages. The American troops also had no idea when and how the radicals would attack them or what were their movements and strategies. Therefore, the country saw a lot of guerilla attacks and bombings, which led to the loss of lives and property. The other problem, just in its infancy but potentially dangerous, was the merging of Al Qaeda terrorists with the Taliban and the resulting increase in the scale of the “war against foreign occupation”, as the term has been coined by the two fundamentalist groups. At the same time, there was the problem of catching Osama Bin Laden, the September 11 attacker, who was said to be hiding in the Afghan mountains. Therefore, the U.S, in a bid to provide its troops with additional means that could capture every movement on all strategic locations, decided to use the method of aerial surveillance. This method was also started to provide better communication tools to the army and increase their efficiency of operations.

Devices that Were Employed in Aerial Surveillance

The aerial surveillance devices were designed to give the stationed troops every detail of every physical movement on the ground. They have the cameras that can take pictures of everything above the area of land that they are planted above.  They also are equipped to detect all kinds of incendiary devices that are planted anywhere on location. These devices relay these photographs to the required army personnel, helping them to stay aware of any activities that are worth worrying about. These aerial surveillance units are administered by trained U.S army officers and have night vision devices that keep watch under the cover of darkness. The development of defensive technology has made these devices able to act as communication centers between different army bases in various locations. An example is the TF- ODIN, the Task Force Observe, Detect, Identify and Neutralize, of the 306th Aerial exploitation Battalion, the largest aerial intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance unit that was ever deployed. The unit is able to take and transfer real time images and videos of any kind.  Others are the Unmanned Aircraft Vehicles, also known as drones, which are aerial vehicles provided with a camera. Sperwer is one of such vehicles. These aerial surveillance crafts serve two purposes: they can take pictures of what is on the ground and they can also serve as a communication means between ground troops and surveillance device operators.  Recently, the U.S military tested the devices called Helikites”, which were designed for lifting communication and surveillance equipment over isolated air bases that are too small to support the larger aerostat beams over the bigger air bases.  The aerial surveillance operators track physical movement on the ground, assess the situation, and report them to troops who are deployed on the ground at various locations.

Advantages of Aerial Surveillance

The establishment of aerial surveillance units has served the following purposes:

1. They carry communication equipment, cameras, and night vision devices that can zoom in on any suspicious activities, and help the soldiers guarding the bases.

2. The devices can be used to act as a communication means between troops. In addition, the whole mobile phone networks can be developed in a country with poor cellphone reception, for example, in Afghanistan.

3. The soldiers with special SIM cards in their smartphones can send maps and information to each other on secure lines.

4. Aerial surveillance has ensured more safety for the soldiers on the ground, as their counterparts in the air can warn them of any possible dangers from insurgents.

5. Aerial surveillance devices have helped in the detection of IED devices that may be planted at various locations in the cities and military bases, which saves lives of both the foreign troops and the civilians.

6. Isolated and small airbases can also stay connected to the rest of their counterparts.

The aerial devices have been used to track many insurgents by keeping track of their ground movements. This has helped to a large extent in tackling insurgency in the country.

Conclusion

The biggest problem for the U.S and Afghanistan is the return of the Taliban.  The potential of the fundamentalist organization is not to be underestimated, since they are a threat from every side.  They need to be monitored under surveillance, since the Talibans will try to undermine any endeavours to turn Afghanistan into a modern, democratic, and liberal state where citizens have the right to live lives whichever way they want to live them.- a value the U.S itself cherishes and practices. Apart from that, since the U.S has taken responsibility for the transformation of Afghanistan, it has to make some crucial changes in its approach.

Using aerial surveillance to monitor the ground operations and the military threat in Afghanistan has proved to be quite useful. Apart from saving a lot of lives both of the natives and the troops, there is also an improvement in the securing the situation. The aerial surveillance devices are not easily recognised or noticed by the layman or the militants, therefore, the U.S has a huge advantage here - it catches the militants unaware and can ambush them now. Tackling of the insurgency threat has become easier, and communication between troops has improved. These are the positive changes that will play a huge role in returning stability to a war-torn country like Afghanistan, whose people trust the U.S to herald in a new age of freedom, democracy, and liberalism for them and improve their social, economic, and administrative infrastructure. So far, a good job has been done with the advent of the aerial technology. However, the U.S has to capitalize on this positive development and concentrate on checking the influx of Taliban militants from the Afghanistan border by asking Pakistan to better co-operate with the Pashtun tribals. The insurgency now is the biggest threat to the establishment of a modern, democratic, stable, and economically strong Afghanistan.

Aerial surveillance, notwithstanding its many benefits, is only a part of the picture, a tool that is handy for changing the situation in Afghanistan. Along with that, the U.S also needs to make some policy changes. It must supply more humanitarian aid to the Afghans so that all who were affected by the Taliban can live better lives in mental, economical, and social aspects. U.S must also deploy specialists in politics, economy, architecture, healthcare, education, and administration to help Afghanistan be a rich country in infrastructure and resources. It must also concentrate on cooperating more with the tribals so that they can gain their support and reduce chances of militants using them to harbour themselves. U.S must also ask Pakistan to improve its border vigilance and security, as well as to check infiltration of Taliban miscreants. In addition, of course, the U.S must invest in the development of more potent surveillance technologies. The mentioned above measures  must be implemented immediately, because if the Afghan people, who trust the U.S to help them become a better nation, become disillusioned with the slow pace of development and the unaddressed Taliban threat, they might turn against both the Afghan government and the U.S. That would be a situation that the Taliban could take an advantage of to create more havoc  pretending to be filling the vacuum that was created by the other two groups. The Taliban may start the vicious cycle of poverty-extremism-women suppression again, sending Afghanistan back into the dark ages again. 

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