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What Afghanistan lawmakers want General Petraeus to do

General Petraeus takes over a counterinsurgency strategy that has largely failed, say Afghanistan lawmakers from Taliban hot spots Marjah and Kandahar, which have been targeted for key US offensives.

By Staff writer / June 25, 2010

Sgt. Adam Clark with the US C Troop 1-71 CAV patrols in the village of Gorgan, Afghanistan, June 25.

Denis Sinyakov/Reuters


Kabul, Afghanistan

As Gen. David Petraeus prepares to take command of the Afghanistan war, the call from Taliban hot spots Marjah and Kandahar is coming in loud and clear: Do something different, and do it fast.

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Politicians from the southern Afghan areas, both targeted for key US offensives, charge that there are fundamental flaws in the way America has been carrying out its counterinsurgency strategy.

They say that two central aspects of the strategy – to protect civilians and bring the rule of law – have largely failed under Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who was replaced by Petraeus this week after he and his team disparaged the Obama administration in Rolling Stone magazine.

Walid Jan Sabir, the member of Parliament (MP) from Marjah district, says the area is at best marginally safer since the US-led offensive in February, which was billed as a key test of the strategy to rout the Taliban and install a government loyal to Kabul and responsive to citizens' needs. But that security, Mr. Sabir says, is deteriorating once more and locals are growing increasingly frustrated at the US presence.

“I was optimistic about all this at first, but I’m disillusioned, and so are a lot of the people I’ve been talking to,” he says. “There are increasing numbers of [improvised explosive] devices, the government they installed isn’t trusted by the people, people have been beheaded, and US forces are barging into homes and arresting innocents. The people are caught between the US and the Afghan National Army by day, and the Taliban by night.”

The mix of violence, ineffective government, and controversial US military operations is eroding what little confidence Afghans have in the Karzai government, America's key partner in the counterinsurgency strategy that Petraeus has been called on to lead.

Doubt about Kandahar offensive

The US operation in Marjah was originally outlined as a decisive prelude to a larger offensive in the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar. When the "government in a box" ushered in by US troops failed to take hold in Marjah amid fears of insurgent attacks, however, McChrystal postponed the Kandahar offensive planned for this summer.