The South Asia Channel

Kandahar

I have a new post on my New Yorker blog about the upcoming offensive in Kandahar and Ahmed Wali Karzai. As even casual followers of the Afghan war will know, its next big campaign will take place in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban. Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, describes Kandahar ...

MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images
MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images

I have a new post on my New Yorker blog about the upcoming offensive in Kandahar and Ahmed Wali Karzai.

As even casual followers of the Afghan war will know, its next big campaign will take place in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban. Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, describes Kandahar as being “in this time frame … as critical in Afghanistan as Baghdad was in Iraq in the surge, writ large.” Something like half or more of the thirty thousand additional troops ordered to Afghanistan by President Obama will take part in the campaign. The basic idea is that if international forces can chase the Taliban out of their heartland and gradually replace the current racketeering-infected provincial government with one that is recognized by Afghans as more inclusive and less corrupt, then momentum in the broader war may swing against the Taliban.

The in-theater commanders who briefed reporters travelling with Mullen this week said they did not expect a formal “D-Day” launch of military operations in Kandahar, such as occurred in Marjah earlier this year. The rough timeline for “clearing” operations, i.e., the taking of territory from Taliban control by force, is planned to roll out gradually from late spring until well into the fall. The campaign’s achievements or lack of them will no doubt be a critical element of the review of Afghan strategy due in December. Most of the action will take place in a number of suburban districts of Kandahar where the Taliban are mainly in control. There will also be a rollout of joint U.S.-Afghan neighborhood security stations in Kandahar City, where the Afghan government is notionally in control but Taliban influence is heavy and rising. The plan is attempt to reduce violence and civilian casualties by organizing a rolling series of sub-district shuras in the hope that local power brokers will “invite” international forces to enter and set up control, and will at the same time “invite” the Taliban to scoot. To the extent that this pre-negotiating of clearing operations succeeds, not all of the Kandahar campaign may require a lot of shooting.

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