"President Obama’s advisers are focusing on a strategy for Afghanistan aimed at protecting about 10 top population centers, administration officials said Tuesday, describing an approach that would stop short of an all-out assault on the Taliban while still seeking to nurture long-term stability.
Mr. Obama has yet to make a decision and has other options available to him, but as officials described it, the debate is no longer over whether to send more troops, but how many more will be needed. The question of how much of the country should fall under the direct protection of American and NATO forces will be central to deciding how many troops will be sent.
At the moment, the administration is looking at protecting Kabul, Kandahar, Mazar-i-Sharif, Kunduz, Herat, Jalalabad and a few other village clusters, officials said. The first of any new troops sent to Afghanistan would be assigned to Kandahar, the Taliban’s spiritual capital, seen as a center of gravity in pushing back insurgent advances.
But military planners are also pressing for enough troops to safeguard major agricultural areas, like the hotly contested Helmand River valley, as well as regional highways essential to the economy — tasks that would require significantly more reinforcements beyond the 21,000 deployed by Mr. Obama this year." NY Times
This strategy would avoid the trap of unrealistic goals designed to secure the whole country and population. A strategy of that scope would logically have demanded a limitless number of soldiers in order to protect that population against attacks and threats that could easily be sized and paced by the Taliban confederation for the purpose of drawing more and more allied troops into the country. The number of troops needed and the vast sea of money involved would "soon" exhaust the patience of the american people.
The strategy described in this article will satisfy both the passion of the counterinsurgent for people-protection and provide the bases needed for the continuation of a strategy aimed at disrupting Al-Qa'ida and other zealot forces that might become a danger to the US and NATO allies.
Realistically, this strategy should not require more than 35,000 foreign soldiers, but the politics of the decision process will probably demand more than that, at least for a while…
The famously effective but little honored methods that led to success in Iraq; use of indigenous irregular groups, HUMINT penetration of hostile groups using the base cities as operating space, and use of these cities as springboards for targeted operations will produce the same results in Afghanistan. It should be understood that such methods do not lead to permanent solutions, but they do lead to accomplishment of our goals.
Let us not forget that the same kind of enemies who attacked us here can be found around the world. To deal with them we must find methods that do not demand limitless numbers of troops, and seas of money. pl