Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Afghan strategy is coming together

The New York Times reports that our new strategy for Afghanistan is taking shape:

At the moment, the administration is looking at protecting Kabul, Kandahar, Mazar-i-Sharif, Kunduz, Herat, Jalalabad and a few other village clusters, officials said. The first of any new troops sent to Afghanistan would be assigned to secure Kandahar, the spiritual capital of the Taliban, which is seen as a center of gravity in pushing back insurgent advances.

But military planners also are pressing for enough troops to safeguard major agricultural areas, like the hotly contested Helmand River valley, as well as regional highways essential to the economy — tasks that would require significantly more reinforcements beyond the 21,000 deployed by Mr. Obama earlier this year....

“We are not talking about surrendering the rest of the country to the Taliban,” a senior administration official said.

Military officers said that they would maintain pressure on insurgents in remote regions by using surveillance drones and reports from people in the field to find pockets of Taliban fighters and guide attacks, in particular by Special Operations Forces. But a range of officials made the case that many insurgents fighting Americans in distant locations are motivated not by jihadist ideology but by local grievances and therefore are not much threat either to the United States or the Kabul government.

At the heart of this strategy is the conclusion that the United States cannot completely eradicate the insurgency in a nation where the Taliban is an indigenous force — nor does it need to in order to protect American national security. Instead, the focus would be on preventing Al Qaeda from returning in force while containing and weakening the Taliban long enough to build Afghan security forces that would eventually take over the mission.

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