News / Asia

US-Led Alliance Concentrates on Afghan Population Centers

U.S. forces are scheduled to begin a slow withdrawal from Afghanistan starting in July.
U.S. forces are scheduled to begin a slow withdrawal from Afghanistan starting in July.


David Axe

The U.S.-led war effort in Afghanistan is nearing its high-water mark. With the first of America's troops slated to withdraw from Afghanistan in July, NATO is changing its strategy. Rather than trying to secure all of Afghanistan against a resurgent Taliban, the alliance is focusing its dwindling resources on a small number of population centers.

It is a calm day in Baraki Barak district, in Logar province, eastern Afghanistan. Military Police from the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division patrol the district center alongside Afghan police.

The local residents are receptive, even friendly. Some men just want to chat. Others volunteer to join a new neighborhood watch.

It is just another day in one of the communities enjoying a sustained NATO and Afghan government presence.

But just a few kilometers away, the roads are nearly impassable due to improvised explosive devices. Taliban snipers stalk NATO troops.

Ten years into the Afghanistan war, the U.S.-led alliance has reached its maximum size of around 150,000 troops. American forces are scheduled to begin a slow withdrawal starting in July.

Realizing it cannot patrol and develop all of Afghanistan, NATO has identified some 80 of Afghanistan's roughly 400 districts as key terrain districts. These will receive a growing proportion of troops, construction projects and other assistance.

Baraki Barak, with about 80,000 people, is the only one of seven districts in Logar province to receive the key designation. Baraki Barak boasts a large bazaar, plus several important roads. Residents have strong ties to Kabul.

"It's sort of a happening place, for lack of a better term, said Captain Paul Rothlisberger of the U.S. 10th Mountain Division

Since moving into Baraki Barak in 2009, NATO has completed a large number of reconstruction projects, including this orchard.

In addition, U.S. State Department officials have helped  to set up a new district government.

The flip side of the key-terrain-district strategy is that the remaining districts receive less attention. These include some strategic border districts that have become Taliban strongholds.

U.S. Army officers admit the strategy is not perfect. But they say it is the best way to apply dwindling resources and buy time for the Afghan government, or GIROA, and the Afghan National Security Forces.

"Our priority is to focus where the population centers are because our primary task here is to secure the populace. So, our idea is if we can provide security to the populace, they will buy into GIROA and the Afghan National Security Forces and once we have that accomplished in the heavily-populated areas, we can move out into the less populated areas," said Captain Rothlisberger.

With NATO troop levels scheduled to steadily decline starting this summer, time is running out for this strategy to work.

You May Like

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs