McChrystal planned to move soldiers killed in Afghan siege
Insurgents killed eight US soldiers at a remote outpost Sunday. Part of Gen. Stanley McChrystal's new strategy for Afghanistan includes moving soldiers to population centers.
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In what is being described as one of the boldest attacks of the Afghan insurgency, an estimated 300 militants sustained a day-long siege against a coalition outpost in Nuristan Province – a place where the rule of law is so tenuous and the terrain so forbidding that it is seen as one of the likeliest hiding places for Osama bin Laden.
It also has fewer people than Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Rather than sending them to the farthest-flung corners of a far-flung nation to hunt down scores of militants hiding in remote mountain caves, it intends to protect the Afghan population first, giving the most Afghans the greatest opportunity of establishing something approaching a safe and normal life.
Fourth of McChrystal's "four fundamental pillars" for a new strategy is: "prioritize available resources to those critical areas where the population is most threatened."
In fact, the very troops in Nuristan forced to fight off unseen attackers firing down from ridge lines cloaked in inclement weather Sunday are poised to be redeployed under McChrystal's new leadership, according to the Washington Post.
The change in course does not promise fewer casualties. Rather, it intends to focus US soldiers on areas where their sacrifices can potentially lead to longer-term security gains.
It is a strategy with inherent risk. Focusing on population centers means, to some degree, giving up rural areas – something McChrystal acknowledged to The Los Angeles Times:
" 'Practically speaking, there are areas that are controlled by Taliban forces,' he said. Over time, McChrystal said, the command would 'reduce' those areas, but the first priority will to be to make sure populated areas are free of insurgent influence."