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US cancels plan to attack Qandahar


US cancels plan to attack Qandahar

As expected General Petraeus has canceled the plans to attack Qandahar. The attack doesn’t make any sense while Mr. Hamid Karzai is trying to build relationships with the Afghan National Resistence (aka Taliban).

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.

He said that the changes of strategy in the area also included a decision not to destroy poppy crops this year, an action that had in the past “driven” farmers into alliance with the Taliban.

He also said that the Afghan police force in Marjah – which now numbers 60 – could not yet replace thousands of US Marines. Efforts to stabilise Helmand’s Marjah have been bogged down by stronger resistance.

Gen Petraeus recruited prominent military experts who assisted him in the surge of forces that brought stability to Iraq.

Stephen Biddle, a military strategist at the US Council for Foreign Relations, coauthored as suggestion that the US would be successful in Afghanistan if it could set up a strong local government in places like Kandahar.

Defections from the Taliban are crucial to the goal of ending the war within four years but Mr Holbrooke said only insurgent groups that had split with al-Qaeda, and willing to work within the framework of the Afghan constitution would be approached.

More effort was being put into recruiting local allies on a district by district basis.

“The reintegration policy is the key to a successful counter-insurgency campaign,” he said. “As for reconciliation, it’s out there somewhere. We’ve talked about it. The US will support Afghan-led reconciliation and by that we mean we need to know what’s going on. Not much is going on now, and nothing is going on with the United States.”

Mr Holbrooke said Pakistan had dramatically increased its co-operation with the US in the battle against the Taliban but he criticised Islamabad’s continuing support for the Haqqani network of insurgents.

“Without Pakistan’s participation, this (Afghan) war could go on indefinitely,” he said. “There’s much more co-operation at every level

“But I don’t want to mislead you, it is not yet where we hope it will be. What we talk about is the Haqqani network. Let’s be very specific. It’s a real problem.” Guardian by Damien McElroy, Foreign Affairs Correspondent Published: 9:00PM BST 23 Jul 2010

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