Afghan war review shows tilt to hitting militants
Last Updated: Thursday, December 16, 2010, 15:48
Bagram Air Field: The latest White House review of the war in Afghanistan to be released on Thursday will show that coalition forces have relied heavily on air strikes and night raids against insurgents as part of the overall strategy, US and NATO officials said.

The emphasis on such counter terror operations aimed at killing and capturing militants could reflect the difficulties the US military has faced in carrying out the other, main part of its strategy, known in military parlance as counter insurgency, or COIN to clear the enemy out of a particular territory, then focus on holding and developing it to win over the local Afghan population.

"It may be an indication that US goals in Afghanistan and Pakistan are being narrowed from a broad COIN mission to something closer to the stated goal of disrupting and defeating al Qaeda," said Rick Nelson, a retired Navy officer who served in Afghanistan last year and is now a counter terrorism expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

NATO officials say both are part of the overall strategy being employed by Gen David Petraeus, the commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

The alliance insists that at the same time that the coalition has stepped up counter terror operations, it also has increased its work to bring development and better governance to Afghanistan's 34 provinces.

But the long-awaited review of the war strategy that President Barack Obama is due fro today's release will show a greater than expected emphasis on counter terror operations, said NATO and US military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because the review has not yet been released.

Nelson said that doesn't mean that counterinsurgency, the lifeblood of Petraeus' strategy, is being abandoned. But the shift in emphasis demonstrates that US and NATO forces ultimately need to be able to target senior Taliban and al Qaeda leaders who live in Pakistan.

"This means cutting lines of communication, interdicting supply lines, and putting pressure on safe havens across the border" in Pakistan, Nelson said.

The commander of NATO forces in eastern Afghanistan predicted yesterday heavier fighting this winter, with more militants staying in Afghanistan instead of slipping over the border into Pakistan.

Maj Gen John Campbell, commander of NATO coalition forces in eastern Afghanistan, told reporters that attacks typically decrease over the winter months, as Taliban and other insurgent foot soldiers sit out the coldest weather in hideouts on Pakistan's side of the fluid, rugged border.


First Published: Thursday, December 16, 2010, 15:48

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