McChrystal brings new tactics to Afghanistan


The Pentagon is considering new tactics in Afghanistan: deploying hundreds of troops using creative and nimble counterinsurgency techniques to fight the Taliban, a U.S. military source told CNN.

The change is based on a plan used in Iraq by Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who is slated to become the next U.S. commander in Afghanistan if confirmed by the Senate.

"We want cohesive units, fleet of foot, specializing in counterinsurgency warfare," the official told CNN.

The plan is evolving as Defense Secretary Robert Gates expresses growing concern that public support for the war in Afghanistan will decline unless the Obama administration can demonstrate progress by the end of this year.

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said Gates believes "it's critically important" for both the U.S. and Afghan governments to make progress in the coming months.

Gates believes the Taliban has momentum in southern Afghanistan, Morrell said.

"People are willing to stay in the fight I believe, if they think we're making headway," Gates said in a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal. "If they think we're stalemated and having our young men and women get killed, then patience is going to run out pretty fast."

The new idea being considered calls for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of troops to train and deploy as a unique battlefield organization, specializing in counterinsurgency warfare.

Counterinsurgency strategies call for military, economic and political tactics to win support of local populations threatened by insurgencies.


The official also said that, under McChrystal, the military will be "stepping up its intelligence game" in Afghanistan, gathering more intelligence on specific insurgent leaders and conducting more reconnaissance and surveillance.


I don't think the Taliban have the initiative in Afghanistan. In combat with US and Afghan forces they tend to use small unit ambushes that flee when the air power shoes up. They have some advantages in remote villages because of a lack of effective local police and and inadequate force to space ratio of US and Afghan troops.

While the new troops will help, they probably want be enough to avoid whack a mole tactics, and McChrystal's mobility plan appears to be an attempt to address the problem with speed. It usually does not work. The troops need to be with the people to protect them and get the intelligence.

The idea of taking advantage of acquired local knowledge makes sense to me, assuming we have enough troops to do the rotations.


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