on Combat roads

Christoph Bangert for The New York Times

In this NYT article about the current Operation Dragon Strike in Arghandab, Afghanistan, the accompanying slide-show featured the above image.

The caption was: “Soldiers demolished every uninhabited building they came across and built a “combat road” across fields and through villages.

This idea of combat roads intrigues me. It seems one can make two formulations, road making as combat and road making for facilitating (either through movement or logistics) combat. One also wonders what might happen after combat, do such roads fade away? Or are combat roads, post war-fighting so integrated into the geo-spatial fabric of a region or country that they become simply roads.

Keeping in mind that transportation has economic, social and community level effects in terms of relationships, networks and linkages. If warfare is not simply about fighting does the very act of building a road or rerouting a road or highway become a tool of violence or axis of change?

Examples such as the Berlin, Israeli/Palestinian Wall or the creation of Israeli only highways between settlements in the Occupied Lands suggest, yes.

Or for that matter read: ““The Alpha Company road-construction mission was very important because it connected the locals in that area to the town of Mest, which has medical facilities,” Army Capt. Mona A. Tanner, TF Pacemaker plans officer, said. “The road also provided coalition forces with freedom of movement between the two areas.” Via Defense.gov (here)

The first article also raises questions re: topics such as village-based security forces and policing as warfare. Particularly when a clear goal in the NATO led forces is as in the “government in a box” discussion in Marja earlier this year, a creation of civil/policing agencies. Tribalism and community based development.

Finally, in such context is it possible to think of an entire war which would be fought by MPs and Combat Engineers? Where the M9 ACE and police station are the only weapons used? US Army combat engineers three task are defined as “mobility, countermobility, and survivability”. Note also the emphasis placed on the more offensive roles played by a combat engineer, as exemplified by the Israel Engineering Corps. Namely, “Their main role is enabling Israeli forces to advance (breach the enemy’s obstacles), stop the enemy’s movement, handle explosive and perform construction and destruction under fire.” Via (here)

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