Gen. Petraeus changes Afghan strategy in Kandahar
I did not and do not have a problem with the targeted assassinations of Taliban leaders. I think we should make them as jittery as possible. But that is just one part of an overall strategy of defeating the enemy. We are not going to get many conversions of existing Taliban leadership. They have had over eight years to change their mind about associating themselves with a groups of religious bigots. If we can protect the people and get them to give us intelligence on the Taliban we will be on our way to defeating them.
He has decided a full-scale military encirclement and invasion – as American troops had done in Iraq's Fallujah – was not an appropriate model to tackle the Taliban in the southern capital.
Gen Petraeus's decision to revise the entire strategy comes just weeks after he arrived in Afghanistan following the abrupt dismissal of Gen Stanley McChrystal for insubordination.
Gen McChrystal had planned a summer conquest of the Taliban in Kandahar to reinvigorate the battle against the Taliban.
But the operation has been repeatedly delayed by concerns that it would not adequately restore the confidence of city residents in the security forces.
Gen Petraeus is reported to believe that the operation must be a broad-ranging counter-insurgency campaign, involving more troops working with local militias.
The plan he inherited was criticised for placing too much emphasis on targeted assassinations of key insurgent leaders and not enough on winning over local residents.
Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said yesterday that the US-led strategy in southern Afghanistan was undergoing sweeping changes.
"Kandahar is not a military operation like Fallujah," Mr Holbrooke said. "We have Gen David Petraeus looking at the plan, scrubbing it down, looking at it again."
President Hamid Karzai has bolstered Gen Petraeus's efforts by agreeing to a US proposal to pay defectors from the Taliban to form local defence militias.
Mr Holbrooke, who oversees the civilian component of the American campaign in Afghanistan, has been described by Gen Petraeus as his "wing man" in the effort to reverse Taliban gains.