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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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